The Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA) is an association-not a standards body-and its members account for more than 80 percent of all worldwide writable optical product shipments. Its specifications represent a consensus of its members, not the proclamation of a committee.

The MultiRead specification defines the requirements that must be met in order for a drive to play or read all four principal types of CD discs: CD-Digital Audio (CD-DA), CD-ROM, CD-Recordable (CD-R), and CD-Rewritable (CD-RW). The specification was conceived, drafted and proposed to OSTA by member companies Hewlett-Packard and Philips. OSTA took over, providing an open forum for interested members to complete the specification. During this process, several significant enhancements were made, including one to ensure readability of CD-R discs on DVD-ROM drives. After the specification was approved by vote of the technical subcommittee to which it was assigned, it was ratified by the OSTA Board of Directors.

Compliance with the MultiRead specification is voluntary. To encourage compliance, a logo program has been established that will be administered by Hewlett-Packard. Companies wanting to display the MultiRead logo on their drives will be required to self test their drives using a test plan published on the OSTA web site. To receive a license permitting use of the logo, they must submit a test report to Hewlett-Packard along with a nominal license fee.

How does this specification affect the current rewritable DVD standards battle? It protects consumers by providing them with the knowledge that whichever type of drive they buy (assuming the two different standards go forward), they will be able to read all earlier types of media, as long as they see the MultiRead logo on the drive. The only incompatibility will be between DVD-RAM and DVD+RW drives. Thus, consumers need not worry about their existing inventory of media or about media produced on today’s drives. All will be compatible with future drives bearing the MultiRead logo.

OSTA has also played a major role in the specification of file systems for use with DVD media.