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 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 EVD players failed to catch on with consumers and producers squabbled over licensing fees.
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 standard DVD players. Electronics makers, film studios and retailers are promising to sell EVDs and players.
The move also adds a new twist to the 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 would be strong enough to support producers after they stopped 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 60% to 8 million units, driving sales of video players, Zhang said. He said producers planned 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% 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 few 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 DVD player.
The 20 manufacturers in the EVD alliance account for 90% of DVD sales in China, Zhang said.
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.