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Tech Industry

CD-ROMs speed up despite DVD

CD-ROM drive manufacturers in Taiwan are working on faster generations of the drives, though it may be too little, too late.

AOpen, Asustek, Behavior Tech Computer and Ultima Electronics, among others, are in the process of developing 44X, 48X and even 60X CD-ROM drives, according to Commercial Times, a Taiwanese business publication, as reported by Nikkei's AsiaBizTech web site.

The "X" refers to the speed multiple of a baseline CD-ROM drive. A few years back, the fastest CD-ROM drives typically ran at 4X or 8X speeds.

The fastest CD-ROM drives currently on the market run at 40X. AOpen has already completed its 44X CD-ROM drive, for instance, while Acer Peripherals is ready to manufacture 48x CD-ROM drives. Behavior claims to be working on a 60X drive.

The need for more speed comes because these companies want to squeeze out more drive sales before CD-ROM goes away. CD-ROMs will begin to disappear by the turn of the century as electronics manufacturers and PC vendors transition to DVD.

DVD stands as a superior storage medium because, among other reasons, discs hold up to 4.7GB of data. CD-ROMs top out at 640MB, or about one-eighth the capacity of a DVD drive.

"The limitation isn't the speed. It's the capacity," said Jae Kim, an analyst with Paul Kagan & Associates. "Most of the major consumer electronics vendors have said that they will stop making CD-ROMs past the year 2000."

Ironically, the most noticeable difference, however, may come in marketing hype. Although these CD-ROM drives will run at 50X and more, PC users really don't see appreciable differences in CD-ROM drives after 24X or even 8X, according to some analysts.

The Commercial Times reports that some of the companies have said that higher speeds make products easier to market.