The increasing popularity of writable and rewritable CD technologies in the consumer space has led Sony to aggressively target the market with a new retail upgrade kit it claims is both low cost and high performance.
In introducing the Sony CRX100 CD drive upgrade kit with full CD-R and CD-RW functionality, Gordon Kerr, Sony Australia's storage product manager, felt prices can still drop further in the near future as the high-tech lasers used in CD-R drives become more affordable.
In other issues discussed, Kerr felt that writable CDs are not the bringers of doom to software publishing that many pundits would claim. Furthermore, the popularity of Digital Video Disks (DVD) is set to accelerate rapidly as nearly all movie houses start recording to the medium, he claimed.
"I don't expect the prices of CD-R drives to come down hugely in the next six months," said Kerr of the commoditisation of the CD writing hardware. "There are some Taiwanese models that retail at about $400, but they are of questionable quality and will not last long."
Currently, the general entry level price for CD-R drives is around the $600-$800 level and although Sony's price is a little above that, the kit comes with a host of software as well as "a performance and quality that is far superior to most" on the market, Kerr said.
In regards to piracy, Kerr felt it was not as big a problem as was being made out. "It is obviously taking sales away from software vendors in the same way that blank audio tapes and video cassettes are, yet the market for pre-recorded audio tapes continues.
"There are two considerations here. Firstly, it is illegal and that tends to be a good disincentive to piracy and secondly, there is still the time and effort involved in making the recording. Even with the fastest of CD-R drives, it is still taking up to 20 minutes to record and can take up to an hour with all the fiddling," said Kerr. "You have to put some effort into it."
While you may have thought any peripheral product seriously targeted at consumer space would need to support USB these days, Kerr indicated that the USB standard doesn't lend itself well to CD-R technologies.
"We don't have plans for USB," he said. "The issue with CD-R and CD-RW is that you have to have a high transfer rate and USB doesn't lend itself to that very well. We see USB as being useful for other technologies but with a CD-R drive, any blip in the transfer of data will be recorded onto the CD."
According to Kerr, DVD is now set to be taken up by far more consumers since many of the film production houses announced their support for the medium.
"The key issue with DVD from a consumer point of view has been the availability of titles. It now appears that all the major video producers are coming to the party. We have been one of the companies behind that push to get all the big studios to use the medium and now that we have everyone on board, we see it as full steam ahead for DVD."
CRX100 drives have an RRP of $895 and are fully compatible with all common CD formats, including CD-ROMs, Audio CDs, Photo CDs and even CD-I disks. It ships as an Upgrade Kit with everything required for installation and operation.