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DVD-ROM momentum builds

Diamond Multimedia is set to ship a new DVD-ROM drive kit by the end of June.

Diamond Multimedia (DIMD) is set to ship a new DVD-ROM drive kit by the end of June, joining the score of vendors announcing DVD-ROM drives.

DVD drives, which are expected to be the catalysts for the "convergence" of consumer electronics and PCs, are slowly making their way onto store shelves. Standalone DVD Video players have been available for the last few months. Diamond's announcement indicates there is momentum building in the market for DVD-ROM drives.

At the upcoming PC Expo trade show, for instance, PC manufacturers such as IBM and Toshiba announced this month that they are getting ready to ship PCs with DVD-ROM drives. A handful of other third-party vendors have already announced DVD-ROM add-in kits.

Diamond's Maximum DVD kit includes a Toshiba DVD-ROM drive that was expected to ship around January, but technical and marketing dilemmas slowed the introduction of the next-generation storage devices for all manufacturers.

Manufacturers are reluctant to ship PCs with the new drives because they add to the cost of the systems. With few titles available, PC makers question whether consumers will pay the extra money. While a critical mass of availability hasn't been achieved yet, Diamond has been able to provide a number of game titles from developers such as Activision as well as a multimedia encyclopedia. A DVD Video sampler is also bundled with the new drive.

Diamond's drive can also be used to view DVD movie titles in place of a separate, standalone DVD player. The adapter allows playback of titles with MPEG-2 and Dolby Digital surround-sound audio to both the PC monitor and television, with a separate S-VHS output available for higher-quality output to the television. Viewing angle, subtitles, audio output, and other settings can be adjusted through included software. TV viewers can control playback through an optional wireless mouse.

The drive, adapter, and bundled software will have an estimated retail price of $599. Initially, they will be available only in the North American market.