Toshiba Ltd. has developed the closest thing to an "all-in-one" product the conventional optical storage market has seen to date.
A hybrid that combines a rewriteable CD drive with DVD storage, Toshiba's SD-R1002 attempts to bridge the gap between the CD and DVD markets. At the same time, the drive satisfies users who have become enamored with recordable CDs, a market that analysts said has cut into sales of removeable storage formats like Iomega Corp.'s Zip drive.
"As you know, the DVD market has been growing in excess of 300% during the last three years, even as CD-RW has grown in popularity," said Kathy Longfellow, senior product marketing manager of optical products at Toshiba America Electronic Components Inc., Irvine, Calif. "However, our customers have been forced to choose between technologies."
Toshiba's new SD-R1002 drive, classified as a 4X-4X-24X model, reads and writes CD-RW and CD-R media at 4X speeds, reads DVD-ROMs at 4X speeds, and reads CD-ROM discs at a 24X clip. DVD-ROM seek times are 140 ms and access times are 160 ms, compared to average CD-ROM seek and access times of 105 ms and 110 ms, respectively.
Like the Zip, Toshiba hopes to use the retail space as a testing ground, building a groundswell of support that will translate into more design wins when the drive ships to OEMs in the fourth quarter. If nothing else, the drive is a novel effort in a market dulled by copycat products and format wars, phenomena especially apparent in the DVD arena.
"We really see this as a bridge product," Longfellow said. "With DVD-RAM we've had great success so far, but the market's been holding back for [the] 4.7-Gbyte [next-generation format], which is right around the corner."
DVD's attraction to end users has been its multi-Gbyte capacity, not the desire to watch thousands of movies on their PC, noted Mary Bourdon, analyst at Dataquest Inc., San Jose. On the other hand, compact discs have become entrenched in the consumer consciousness.
"My first reaction is that it's a killer product," Bourdon said. "It puts the best of both worlds-the functionality of CD-R/RW and the ability to read DVD-ROM discs-in the same box, and with good performance."
But, as always, price will be the deciding factor. Toshiba is committed to selling a kit that includes the drive and related software for less than $400, but Bourdon said that a successful product introduction must be under $300, and ideally under $200, particularly with a single-sourced product.
However, Bourdon also said she expects Toshiba to license the technology, especially the internally developed and manufactured combination read head, which can process the different wavelengths of light generated by the two optical lasers-one each for the CD and DVD formats.
The other notable innovation in the conventional optical storage market, the TrueX technology from Cupertino, Calif.-based Zen Research Inc., reads several tracks on a CD-ROM simultaneously. The latest, 70X-speed version of Zen's ASIC is sampling soon for $12 in low volumes.