Cardinal's new family of 33.6 internal, external, and PC Card fax-modems will be priced comparable to other 33.6 modems but will be software upgradable to 56 kbps and, through the purchase of a $79 kit, can be transformed into a 128-kbps ISDN modem.
"There's a much lower risk and cost of ownership compared to owning [a product] that is just 33.6 or ISDN," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Giga Information Group.
Cardinal's new modem is based on a highly integrated custom silicon chip. The custom design allows Cardinal to build one chip that can be used in several modems, including a PC Card modem for notebooks.
Moreover, the design allows software updates to accomodate increased speeds in analog technology, such as 56 kbps, as they become standardized. The design also allows users to upgrade to ISDN by plugging a cable connector into the back of the modem and installing new software.
"If you lose your ISDN connection, you can go back to analog while waiting for ISDN to go back up," says Enderle. "It gives you a lot of options you wouldn't otherwise have."
Users who have replaced desktop computers with notebooks also have increased options: The PC Card modem can be easily switched from ISDN lines at the office to 33.6 technology for use while on the road.
The small or home office market is the primary target market, Cardinal said.
Cardinal says that to take advantage of the ISDN upgrade path, minimum system requirements are a 486DX-25 or higher PC-compatible with Windows 95 and 8MB of RAM.
Cardinal expects an internal version of the modem to have a street price of $149, with an external version costing an extra $20. The PC Card version will have an estimated street price of $199, with the ISDN option kit priced at $79 for both. The modems are expected to ship in the first quarter of 1997.