Here’s my opinion but I (still) live in South Korea.
NEC: good at making good drives but bad at retailing them, has the top place in the world’s fastest supercomputer list
Lite-On IT: good at updating firmware files and releasing them but bad at releasing drives ahead of the rest, still a small business compared to most others
BenQ: still part of Acer group which is the Samsung of Taiwan, good at making cheap things but the partnership with Philips of the Netherlands proved to work very well, has great potential
Plextor - the most expensive brand name per drive, but not a leader in technologies and not a leader in market share either, many industry insiders once speculated that Plextor won’t make any DVD writer simiply because they have no base technologies and are too greedy
LG: good at making soap in a wartime South Korea, bad at credit card business, two key strategic markets they do (sometimes) better than Samsung, the traditional rival, are LCD panels and optical disk drives. Partnership with Hitachi has also worked extremely well for both Hitachi and LG.
Samsung: No. 2 optical disk drive manufacturer in the world after LG but needs to care more about enthusiasts that use the drives most often and spend most time on web forums telling their experiences to everyone else, how the new partnership with Toshiba will turn out needs some more time to see
Pioneer: lost a great deal of face with the introduction of DVR-A06 which happened to be THE Pioneer drive that changed the value of Pioneer brand name from one of the average to the best of the best among DVD recordable hardware enthusiasts in all three major continents, and and loses a lot of face with the introduction of DVR-A08 which provides DVD+R DL writing but not DVD-R DL writing
Sony: most known for their multiple-standard strategies even before the VHS vs. Betamax time, supports MemoryStick but will support any other standards for portable memory if necessary as was clear with DSC-F828, first used Pioneer DVD-R writers for some of their PC systems but used Ricoh DVD+RW and later DVD+RW/DVD+R writers to sell under Sony brand name, later developed their own drives that support both DVD-R and DVD+R/DVD+RW writing, and of course DVD-RW, too, but that is hardly used among desktop PC users for recording, can’t compete against South Korean and Taiwanese manufacturers so just made a temporary strategic alliance with Lite-On IT of Taiwan but has had their own post-DVD products on the market even before the alliance with Lite-On IT.
Matsushita: two things to be said here. Nobody uses DVD-RAM from Matsushita. However, the people who do use DVD-RAM from Matsushita often say DVD-RAM is the best which reminds me of Apple in the 1990s. That’s not saying I doesn’t like DVD-RAM. I do.
JVC: not known for DVD writers but many people in the US, Japan, and South Korea at least prefers JVC D-VHS recorders to any DVD writer on the market for data backup even if it’s not as flexible and as fast as 16x DVD+R on PC.
Philips: hated by Pioneer and some Pioneer fans but has helped DVD writer market to grow faster and DVD+R 16x was a Philips invention.
Ricoh: the first Sony and HP DVD writers were made by Ricoh and Ricoh 2.4x DVD+RW/DVD+R drives were cheaper than Pioneer DVR-A04 and it seems Ricoh has not yet completely given up DVD recordable market.
BTC: another good manufacturer in Taiwan that makes all sorts of hardware products in the quest of an independent Taiwan. perhaps being closer to Japan and the West can’t hurt like Lite-On IT and LG Electronics.