The shiver of apprehension that ran through the shares of Winchester manufacturers at the announcement of Maxtor Corp’s new erasable optical disk drives (CI No 926) was not misplaced in the view of Peter Tobias, Optical Storage Programme manager at consultants BIS Mackintosh Ltd in Luton. The Maxtor launch is a major even and will start the commercial market rolling for erasable optical storage, he writes in a note rushed out to put the Maxtor launch into perspective. He makes it clear that the 5.25 Tahiti 1 drive, storing 512Gb on each side of a double sided exchangeable platter, is substantially the more significant of the two announcements, and he believes that it will begin to have a significant secondary impact on the magnetic disk and tape market from the middle of next year. Comparing prices and performance for comparable capacity disk drives from DEC and streaming tape drives from Kennedy, he demonstrates that the $2,500 OEM 1,000 price, $6,000 end-user, of the Tahiti 1 is competitive, pointing out that while it does not match the performance of leading edge fixed disks, performance is at most one generation behind magnetics, which is better than most in the industry expected from the first serious erasable optical drives. Significantly, it outperforms all the write-once as well as all the other erasable products announced so far. He notes that the Philips & Du Pont Optical joint venture gets a head start over the competition from the fact that Maxtor has qualified the company as its first media source for the Tahiti. The Fiji 1 is clearly a less dramatic product, not only because its performance and capacity – 160Mb on one side only of the 3.5 platter – is much lower, but also because unlike the Tahiti, with its built-in SCSI interface, the Fiji has to have a separate controller. Moreover the Tahiti seems to have the field to itself, whereas the Fiji may face competition from the Verbatim unit of Eastman Kodak Co, which hopes to have limited quantities of its erasable optical 3.5 drive, announced back in 1985, available before the end of the year. The Fiji is being offered with separate SCSI at $2,000 end-user, which falls to $1,025 when you order 1,000 or more.
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