Hewlett-Packard to ship plug-and-play CD drive

Hewlett-Packard Co. plans this week to begin shipping a new plug-and-play compact disc drive designed to provide an alternative to floppy disks for storing large files.

The HP SureStore CD-Writer Plus would enable users to record data on CD-Recordable (CD-R) or CD-Rewritable (CD-RW) discs. Although several manufacturers have released CD-RW drives in the past few months this is the first that can be installed using standard computer cables. It also is among the first products to support the new "multi-read" standard approved this summer by the Optical Storage Technology Association that enables users to read different CD formats from a single drive.

Dave Webb a spokesman for HP said the main competition for the drive is with devices that support other removable storage media. The company hopes to convince buyers that the drive is more versatile than either floppies or higher-capacity external storage media for data backup archiving and distribution.

Analysts say the technology could help users who want reusable media to store information such as presentations which may not fit on 1.44M floppies and need to be transported or used on someone else's computer. "You have virtually a guarantee of transferring files " said John Freeman president of Strategic Marketing Decision Los Gatos Calif. In addition he said the 650M capacity of CDs allows users to carry application software with their files.

Although not all CD-ROM drives can read CD-RW discs CD-R discs are compatible with earlier formats so someone using the HP drive could record files on a CD-R disc and run them from standard CD-ROM drives Freeman said. Meanwhile CD-RW discs are "forward compatible" with emerging Digital Video Disc technology and new CD-ROM drives.

Vendors see some federal applications for CD-RW drives but agencies have not made major commitments to the technology said Scott Fast senior product manager with Micro Design International which plans to ship a multi-read compatible CD-ROM tower later this year. "What we're trying to plan around is the odd case in which a customer does move to CD-RW media at a workstation produces data and walks down to the LAN and puts the RW disc in a drive [that won't read it]."

HP will sell internal and external versions of the drive through its resellers and distributors but at press time the company had not provided any details about its federal sales plans.

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