HP's 'roadmap' for CD's future

HP's 'roadmap' for CD's future

With the release in 1997 of new CD-recordable drives at less than one thousand dollars, the multi-purpose compact disc format should find further application in many entry-level imaging systems.

This month HP released the CR-Writer 6020, which offers a 6x read and 2x write speed, and comes bundled with the Alchemy for Windows 95, which allows users to create and search custom databases (the application includes a run-time search engine for use on any PC with a CD-ROM drive).

The CD-R machines are esssentially WORM drives, which may be useful for some applications - particularly where there are legal requirements - while be limiting in many other roles.

For this reason, companies like HP are planning to release the CD-E or CD-RW, where the "E" stands for erasable or the "RW" for re-writable. These drives could be on the market by the middle of this year.

By the end of the century, it's expected a CD-E drive will cost around US$300 and be a standard feature of most new PCs. "It will be like a 650 megabyte floppy," commented Susan Reynolds, the marketing development manager for HP Colorado Memory Systems in Asia Pacific.

In fact, HP estimates that by 2000 the market for CD-E will be larger than CD-R (132.5 million units versus 107.9 million CD-R WORM drives).

In the meantime, the market for CD-R will peak by the end of this year, with nearly 124 million drives being supplied around the world.

But perhaps the greatest potential for the compact disc format is the DVD format, or digital versatile disc. The first DVD drives are expected to become available by the end of 1998 at a cost of US$950.

They will offer a staggering 4.7 gigabytes of storage in native form.

However, the standardisation of the new DVD format - which has helped the CD-ROM win acceptance in all its variations - has broken down, with a major split developing between the major players.

CD developers Sony and Philips have broken away from the DVD standards committee and it appears that agreement on a universal data format for the DVD could be some time in the future.

The major dispute appears to be over how the data is written to the DVD media. Matsushita prefers to write to both sides of disc, while Sony and Philips want to write to two separate layers on the same side of the disc. Unless these parties agree, there will be none of the interoperability that has made the CD format so successful for music and information titles.

Given these problems, HP executives are fairly conservative about the DVD format, even suggesting that it is better to invest in companies that will be doing the PR and advertising for the major DVD proponents, rather than the technology itself.

"Don't hold your breath waiting for DVD-RAM nirvana," warned Irving Oh, HP's product marketing manager for ISG AsiaPacific.

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