CD-R, CD-RW activity heats up

Posted on August 01, 1999

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CD-R, CD-RW activity heats up

Zachary Shess

With CD-R and CD-RW popularity continuing to pick up steam, Iomega and Eastman Kodak capitalized this summer with related drive and media introductions.

This month, Iomega began shipping the ZipCD CD Re-Writable (CD-RW) drive, marking its entry into the optical storage market. On the media side, Eastman Kodak recently introduced CD-PROM (programmable, read-only memory), a 120mm technology that meshes CD-ROM and CD-R formats. Both companies are releasing their products into arguably the most popular segment of the optical storage industry. More than 14 million CD-R and CD-RW drives are expected to ship worldwide this year, up from 5.7 million in 1998, according to the Santa Clara Consulting Group.

The internal E-IDE, 680MB ZipCD from Iomega is focused on mobile and desktop users who churn out large volumes of data, need easy-to-use backup and archive, and don`t have sophisticated IT staffs. In addition to corporate IT users, Iomega plans to target systems integrators and resellers.

With drive technology OEMed from Philips, Iomega officials say ZipCD`s bundled software provides additional value to integrators and end-users. For example, an animated installation tour shows users how to use the drive. Additional software includes Adaptec`s packet writing DirectCD and Easy CD Creator suites, Adobe PhotoShop 5.0 LE, and Iomega QuikSync, which executes simultaneous backups of active files within user-designated folders.

Iomega officials say the 4X-write 24X-read ZipCD is the first of several optical drive products to be released by its recently formed Optical Center located in Longmont, CO.

"The first iteration of our strategy is to work with distributors, retailers, and integrators," says David Gantt, Iomega`s vice president and general manager of optical products. "From there, given the proper market conditions, we would consider bringing an external drive to market."

Industry analysts, including Santa Clara Consulting Group`s David Bunzel, believe Iomega could have a challenging entry into the optical drive market, but the company will be successful if it continues its history of producing simple backup products like the Zip drive.

"The CD-R strategy is a significant departure from its Zip business model in that it`s a hardware-driven model, as opposed to media-driven. Iomega will have to make their margins from hardware, and there`s a lot of competition in this space," Bunzel says.

With its CD-PROM rollout, Eastman Kodak delivers media that officials contend leverages a large and growing CD-ROM installed base. The CD-PROM has a stamped area conducive for high-production runs, while also having the advantages of a writable CD.

To create hybrid CD-PROM discs, Kodak combined the grooved geometry of CD-R discs with the pitted area of CD-ROM discs. Earlier attempts to produce this hybrid proved unsuccessful because of transition problems between the pit and groove, which prevented users from writing a second session. Kodak overcame this by implementing a modulated groove feature within the CD-PROM disc that looks like a pit to a CD-ROM drive and a groove to a CD-R drive.

With the technology in place, Cheryl Bianchi, worldwide marketing manager in Kodak`s Rochester, NY storage unit, believes the market is ripe for mainstream integration. "You`re seeing this product`s arrival because of the popularity of CD-R. About 1.5 billion CD-R discs are expected to ship this year," says Bianchi.

With CD-PROM media currently shipping, Kodak also announced an agreement with Rimage Corp. The two companies will develop hardware and software products enabling users to record on the CD-R portion of the discs.


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