In a move to shake off its dependence on foreign technology, China has begun to release its alternative to the DVD (digital versatile disc) standard–EVD (enhanced versatile disc).

A consortium of businessmen and academics is behind the launch, operating through a front company called Beijing E-world Technology, and promise that the new format will offer five times the image quality of DVD movies and a higher data-storage capacity. The first EVD players are to be marketed next month, with several manufacturers eager to make the switch because of the high amount of royalty fees for using DVD technology – they pay US$9 in royalties for each player exported to nine foreign electronic giants who own DVD technologies.

Already, however, doubts are emerging both from within and outside the industry as to whether EVD will be viable and globally accepted. Although the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) intends to establish a task force to examine whether EVD should be adopted as the new national industry standard, analysts are far from confident that the rest of the world will fully adopt the format–even if China were to adopt it.

Price is certainly one barrier standing in the way of EVD–an EVD player will cost as much as 2,000 yuan (US$240) compared with an average of only 1,000 yuan (US$120) for a DVD player. More of an issue will be the reaction of the international markets, which have already embraced DVD as the standard–there is great debate as to whether influential players such as the Hollywood studios will release their films on EVD. Additionally, EVD, with its higher data-capacity and improved image quality, will be reliant to a great extent on the success of HDTV in China, as it will be HDTV that is best able to make full use of EVD's advantages. Currently, the reach of HDTV in China is small.

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