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CD-E or Not CD-E?

Light finally shines at the end of the tunnel for CD-Erasable (CD-E) with formal market delivery anticipated at the November COMDEX exhibition in Las Vegas.

CD-E or Not CD-E?

Hugh Bennett
CD-ROM Professional, July 1996

Light finally shines at the end of the tunnel for CD-Erasable (CD-E). First called feasible by Philips Electronics more than three years ago, it is now well over a year since CD-E was formally announced and more than six months since CD-E was supposed to be available. Now, we are told, distribution began in May to licensees of the 0.9 version of the governing CD-E standard, Orange Book Part III. We are also told that test discs for product development have been released as well.

Philips sources now say that October 1, 1996, is the scheduled date for the industrial release of CD-E and the start of hardware mass production. They anticipate formal market delivery will be at the November COMDEX exhibition in Las Vegas. It is possible, however, that other vendors may delay their own introductions until Spring 1997, to ensure that sufficient quantities of blank CD-E discs will be available.

Before commercial release, CD-E will probably undergo a name change. Of those being considered, the most popular appears to be CD-Rewritable, though even that choice has its opponents. Some analysts are concerned about confusing the marketplace, since CD-E technology does not share the same characteristics as other rewritable storage systems. No rationale has been given for creating a new name for CD-E other than to eliminate any possible negative connotations surrounding the term “erasable.”

As market introduction approaches, many companies have yet to disclose their product plans. It is expected, however, that Philips, Ricoh, and Hewlett-Packard will be the first to offer CD-E devices. In view of the fact that Philips supplies components and complete assemblies to many existing recorder manufacturers, it is expected that CD-E capabilities will find their way into many of these products within the next year.

Remaining curiously silent are the remaining six companies — IBM, Sony, 3M, Olympus, Matsushita Kotobuki Electric Industries, and Mitsumi Electric — who declared their support for CD-E at its original announcement. While Hewlett-Packard leads the charge by drumming up industry interest, few others seem to share the same enthusiasm.

The greatest uncertainty with CD-E seems not to surround hardware, but the availability of blank CD-E media. Ricoh, upon whose media technology CD-E is based, will be the first to offer blank 74-minute, 650MB CD-E discs at introductory prices expected to fall in the $25 range.

However, an informal survey of the main CD-Recordable (CD-R) media manufacturers suggests that beyond Ricoh, few seem eager to join in manufacturing the new CD-E discs. They have enough to do, some manufacturers say, just keeping up with demands for CD-R discs without the distraction and drain of providing capital and manufacturing resources to a new product whose future is less than certain. Others cite potentially far lower consumption rates for reusable media compared to write-once discs.

The only exception so far is Mitsubishi/Verbatim, whose market strategy is more compatible with CD-E. According to Jim Riggs, Optical Product Manager for Verbatim Corporation, the company has “already provided CD-E media evaluation samples to support drive development and preliminary system evaluation” and anticipates its initial CD-E media production for the fourth quarter of 1996 with continued expansion into 1997. Given that the manufacturing process for CD-E media is more like magneto optical (MO) than CD-R, it is likely that future interested parties will be traditional MO producers.

About the Author

Hugh Bennett, editor-in-chief of Hugh’s News, is president of Forget Me Not Information Systems, a reseller, systems integrator and industry consultant based in London, Ontario, Canada. Hugh is author of The Authoritative Blu-ray Disc (BD) FAQ and The Authoritative HD DVD FAQ, available on Hugh’s News, as well as Understanding Recordable & Rewritable DVD and Understanding CD-R & CD-RW, published by the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA).

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