Sony to launch double density CD in April

Sony Corp. said Wednesday it plans to launch in April a new type of CD that can hold twice as much data as the current format. The Double Density CD format allows up to 1.3G bytes of data to be stored on a disc, although the new system is not compatible with the existing CD format.

Sony will begin selling drives and discs to support write-once and rewritable versions of the Double Density (DD) format in North America, Europe and Japan from April, a company official said. The first DD-R/RW drive from Sony has an ATAPI interface and supports 12x maximum write for DD-R/CD-R, 8x write for DD-RW/CD-RW and 32x maximum read speed for all types of CDs, it said in a statement.

To double the capacity, Sony made some modifications to the current CD format, of which it was one of the original developers. The changes included a smaller track pitch and minimum track length, a change in the error correction system and an expanded address format. The new format also includes a copyright control system to prevent illegal copying of data on the discs.

The new format is likely to face heavy competition from a variety of formats already battling for dominance in a fierce marketplace. The new system coss US$249 for the drive and $1.99 and $2.99 respectively for the DD-R and DD-RW media.

Comparable CD-RW drives are cheaper and CD-RW media currently sells in Tokyo's Akihabara electronics district for around $0.75 per disc, although the company is hoping the extra capacity will be enough to win over users.

Not so for some other formats that are closer in data capacity to DD-CD. Drives for Iomega Corp.'s Jaz format, which offers 2G bytes of capacity per disk, cost around the same as Sony's new DD-CD drive. The new discs are much cheaper than the average $70 a Jaz disk currently commands. The DD-CD drive is also cheaper than drives for the 1.3G byte version of MO (Magneto Optical), a rewritable optical disk format popular in Japan, and the bevy of DVD-based formats currently on the market.

CD drive makers will be watching how consumers accept the new technology with interest. Adding DD-CD support to existing CD drives can be done with minimal effort compared to switching to other unrelated technologies.

Sony first announced development of the format in mid 2000 when it said development, jointly undertaken with Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV, was nearing completion. [See "Sony, Philips Finalizing High Capacity CD Format," July 5.]Sony, in Tokyo, can be contacted at +81-3-5448-2111 or online at http://www.sony.co.jp/.

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