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Diamond, Xircom crowd 56-kbps market

Diamond Multimedia announces a new 56-kbps PC Card modem for notebooks, while Xircom starts an upgrade campaign.

Diamond Multimedia (DIMD) today announced a new 56-kbps PC Card modem for notebooks, while Xircom (XIRC) initiated a program to upgrade users of slower PC Card modems to the new faster rate.

The news comes as Forward Concepts, a research firm specializing in DSP (digital signal processor) technology, proclaimed that Rockwell (ROK) and Lucent (LU) are expected to ship 65 percent of all 56-kbps modem chipsets this year.

Rockwell and Lucent's K56flex technology is competing against U.S. Robotics' (USRX) x2 technology. Currently, the two camps market incompatible 56-kbps communications protocols. Texas Instruments, which is making USR's chipsets, will achieve a 33 percent market share in the modem chipset market this year at Rockwell's expense, according to Forward Concepts.

Diamond Multimedia's new Supra 56-kbps PC Card modem is based on K56flex technology. The company says that the modem was designed specifically as a 56-kbps modem, and consequently offers better performance than typical modems, even when connected at 33.6kbps.

The modem is software upgradeable to future telecommunications standards, which are downloaded automatically with included software as they become available. Diamond says the modem also offers a special "sleep mode" that conserves notebook battery power.

The modem will have an estimated retail price of $199 and is expected to be available next month.

Xircom's upgrade program allows any brand of PC modem card to be raised to Xircom 56-kbps PC Card modem standards for $179. Current Xircom users can upgrade to the new software for $99. The company said users can also upgrade any brand of modem/Ethernet combination PC Card to a Xircom 56kbps modem/Ethernet PC Card for $249, while current Xircom users can upgrade for $169.

The program lasts until July 31. Customers can register for the program at the company's Web site.