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China Tosses Third Competitor Into DVD Format War

China's top electronics makers on Wednesday unveiled dozens of video players made with a homegrown DVD format in a campaign to promote a Chinese alternative to foreign technology.

The DVD format, known as EVD, is part of state-backed efforts to create standards for mobile phones and other products and reduce dependence on foreign know-how and possibly reap licensing fees if they are adopted abroad.

EVD, or Enhanced Versatile Disc, was first released in 2003, but an effort to promote it was dropped in 2004 after the players failed to catch on with consumers and producers squabbled over licensing fees.

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Now Chinese electronics makers have revived the campaign on a massive scale, saying they plan to switch completely to EVD by 2008 and stop producing DVD players. Electronics makers, film studios and retailers are promising to sell EVD discs and players.

The move also adds a new twist to rivalry between the HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc next-generation video standards being promoted by competing groups of U.S., Japanese and European companies.

Promoters of EVD say it provides crisper pictures and sound, bigger recording capacity and better anti-piracy features than standard DVD.

Zhang Baoquan, general secretary of the EVD Industry Alliance, a group promoting the alternative format, expressed confidence that sales in China's booming consumer electronics market will be strong enough to support producers after they stop making DVD players.

"By 2008, when EVD replaces DVD, there will be no major impact on Chinese manufacturers," he said at a news conference.

Chinese sales of high-definition TV sets next year are expected to grow by 60 percent to 8 million units, driving sales of video players, Zhang said. He said producers plan to start trying to export EVD machines next year.

On Wednesday, 54 video players from 20 Chinese manufacturers were displayed at a Beijing art gallery.

They included models from Haier Group, one of the world's top three appliance makers, and TCL Group, which owns French television maker Thomson and the RCA brand.

Chinese companies produce 80 percent of the world's DVD players under their own brand names and for foreign electronics companies or retailers. But manufacturers complain that fees paid to foreign owners of technology cut into profits in a highly competitive industry.

At Wednesday's exhibition, film distributors displayed dozens of Chinese movies and a handful of foreign titles, including the Hollywood thriller "Cellular," in EVD format.

The industry group says EVD players will retail for about 700 yuan ($87), about the same as a regular DVD player. [HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc players retail for between $500 and $1,000 in the U.S. and Japan.]

The 20 manufacturers in the EVD alliance account for 90 percent of DVD sales in China, according to Zhang.

Chinese authorities have had only mixed success with earlier efforts to promote homegrown standards for the fast-growing fields of mobile phones and wireless encryption.

Last year, Beijing dropped an effort to make its encryption standard mandatory for computers and other goods sold in China after the United States and other governments complained it would hamper market access for foreign companies.

In March, the global industrial standards body rejected the Chinese system for worldwide use.

Beijing has postponed announcing a next-generation mobile phone standard as its researchers try to develop their own system. The delay has prompted complaints by mobile phone carriers and handset manufacturers.

State media say the Chinese system has performed poorly in tests.

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