Until Comdex, Exabyte`s plans for its next-generation 8-mm product were anyone`s guess. Still smarting from a costly year-long delay in shipping the Mammoth line, Exabyte`s taking a somewhat more aggressive, yet cautious approach this time around.
"We could roll out a road map that, in essence, would be in parity with Sony`s, but we want to beat them and establish a clear reason to choose our 8mm over AIT," says Bruce Huibregtse, senior vice president at Exabyte. "To that end, we`re going to skip what Sony is doing with AIT-2 and go right to a follow-on product."
Exabyte`s next-generation 8mm drive packs 60GB (native) with a 12MBps transfer rate. In addition to going to a 3x data compression algorithm (ALDC)--also used by Sony--Exabyte has engineered a new head and scanner, equipped with new ASICs and firmware.
The product will be gradually rolled out over the next 18 months or so. Around the first of the year, Exabyte will unveil the proprietary head and scanner technology that enables the performance boost. In May, the company plans to deliver sample units, which will not be backward compatible with first-generation Mammoth. Backward compatibility (read-only) will come later in the year, and production shipments are scheduled for early 1999.
Like Sony, Exabyte does not foresee any supply constraints. Says Huibregtse, "Our only supply issue to date was recording heads. That`s essentially behind us." Current Mammoth OEMs include Apple, IBM, Fujitsu, Intergraph, NCR, Micron, Siemens Nixdorf, and Sun.--HB