By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Looking to provide additional storage solutions for the growing number of consumers making purchases of blank media products, and to meet all the demands of today's digital lifestyles, suppliers are introducing a number of blank media products that count on such user attractions as speed, increased capacity and portability.
"The proliferation of digital photography, audio and video has transformed consumer expectations for data storage management," said Steve Carter, VP/general manager for the Personal Storage Solutions Business at Imation. "The demand is no longer solely focused on capacity, but also on speed, portability and durability," he added.
New from Oakdale, Minn.-based Imation is its 48X CD-R media, a recordable CD featuring the fastest write speeds available, according to the company. The write-once discs offer an increased storage capacity of 700MB of data, or up to 80 minutes uncompressed audio files. Available in five neon colors and silver, this media can be played back in CD players and CD-RW or CD-ROM drives. Suggested retail is $10 for a 10-pack.
Imation's line of smaller format optical media continues to expand with the addition of 202MB Mini CD-R. These tiny discs hold up to 202MB of digital information or more than 23 minutes uncompressed audio. The Mini CD-R/RW discs are compatible with all standard CD-ROM-equipped computers or tray-based CD players, as well as a number of audio/video digital devices. Suggested retail is $9.99 for a 5-pack.
The newest addition to Imation's portfolio of DVD offerings, DVD+R discs extends the functionality of the DVD+RW media in a write-once format. With 4.7GB of storage capacity, consumers can store thousands of digital photographs or up two hours of digital video. The discs are certified for a 2.4x DVD recording speed, which is equivalent to 3.32MB per second or 22x CD-R performance, and are said to offer the fastest recording speed of any current DVD format. Suggested retail is $14.43 each. Considering recent unsettled economic conditions, business in the blank media category has been reasonably strong, said Peter Brinkman, VP/ marketing at Maxell Corporation of America, in looking at the overall health of the accessories category.
"Among the bright spots is the continuing pronounced consumer appetite for digital media," said Brinkman, "particularly CD-R Music and CD-R data discs, as well as Mini DV and Digital-8 camcorder tape.
"The challenge facing retailers and manufacturers alike is to present the strongest, most productive mix of products the [retail] shelf can offer," Brinkman continued. "Increasingly, that mix consists of digital products that offer a full complement of leading-edge technologies, along with brand equity that gives consumers confidence."
Another positive indication of the selling potential of the blank media category for Maxell is the availability of DVD formats, promotional advertising and favorable price points, Brinkman said. The Fair Lawn, N.J.-based company's DVD-RAM Camcorder Video Disc, an 8cm disc with total capacity of one hour of MPEG2 video or 10,000 JPEG stills, is one example of the newest products in the company's media lineup. Suggested retail is $24.95. Drawing on what it calls a proven track record for CD-R technology, Charlotte, N.C.-based Verbatim was among the first to offer DVD+R media, the logical extension of CD-R.
The company's DataLifePlus-brand DVD+R is said to provide a reliable, low-cost storage solution for archiving home videos, photos, mixed media presentations and data that require protection from alteration or erasure.
Offering broad compatibility with DVD-ROM drives and DVD video players, Verbatim DVD+R media can be used with DVD+R/+RW drives and video recorders coming from Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Philips, Ricoh and Sony.
Verbatim +RW and +R media is packaged in standard jewel box cases as well as DVD video tall boxes for movie and video storage. DataLifePlus DVD+R write-once media has a street price of $6 for the single-sided 4.7GB discs. DataLifePlus 4.7GB DVD+RW ReWritable media is available for $9. Bolstered by increases in sales of digital camcorders, registering 35 percent year to date through the first half of 2002, Sony Electronics has enjoyed strong growth in Mini Disc media sales. The increase is tied to the launch of the company's Net MD recorders, according to Michael Lucas, newly named director of consumer and convergent media at Park Ridge, N.J.-based Sony.
"Helping to drive Mini Disc sales is our Playback with Payback promotion," said Lucas, "which offers consumers more than 42 hours worth of recording time with the purchase of any Net MD recorder." Consumers, with the purchase of the recorder and the media, mail in store-generated proof of purchases and receive their rebate back by mail. The current promotion runs through the end of December.
Sony, this summer, launched a new EZ Editor kit called EZ Editor for Micro MV. It will contain the Pinnacle software that has been modified with the Sony-brand GUI, an IEEE 1394 card, i.Link cables, two blank Micro MV tapes and one blank CD-R. Suggested retail is $99.95.
Sony also is offering updated versions of its EZ Editor kits. These will feature the company's new lifestyle packaging as well as the most recent versions of its modified Pinnacle software that allow consumers to burn home videos into DVDs or CDs.
Kits come in both EZ Editor for DV and D8 versions, and contain the IEEE 1394 card, i.Link cables and two blank tapes. A blank CD-R has been added and suggested retail is $99.95.
This month, Sony is launching a new EZ kit called EZ Video. It allows a user to take any analog video, whether a Hi8 camcorder tape, VHSC or VHS from a VCR, and transfer these to the computer.
Consumers can clean up the video and/or audio, edit and output to CD, CD Video or DVD. The kit comes bundled with an analog video card, three cables — RCA, S Video and 3.55mm — three CD-Rs and a guidebook. Suggested retail is again $99.95.Because each of the blank media markets for audio, video and data has its own characteristics and patterns, Terence O'Kelly, technical marketing manager at Memorex, said it is difficult to generalize about overall market trends.
But he does offer some definitive inputs: "Recordable DVD will grow, due to its versatility as both a data storage medium and as a digital video medium. DVD+R/+RW is the only format designed for both applications," continued O'Kelly, "so it is likely to win out. The fact that Dell, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Sony, Compaq and Memorex support it, will provide a tremendous endorsement."
Among O'Kelly's other blank media trend predictions: "Mini DV will see continuing growth as more people switch to digital camcorders for video editing and recording to disc. CD-R will top out at 48X and remain an important recording medium for years to come. CD-RW will top out at 24X and the market will not expand much beyond what it is now, simply because audio players don't play them."
Still other predictions from O'Kelly: "DVD-RAM is a great medium for data back-up, but that will not be enough to keep it alive because the cost of the cartridge alone will be more than that for a plain DVD+R disc. DVD+R will replace DVD-R if its cost is close to it and if the compatibility with DVD players is as good. DVD+RW will make a stronger case for itself than CD-RW did because newer DVD players play these discs. CD-RW did not work in CD Players. DVD+RW can be erased, reused, edited straight to disc and appended easily."
Memorex, based in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., is expanding its CD product line with what it calls the industry's first Picture CD-R and Picture CD-RW, "enabling shutterbugs to store up to 7,000 images or 700MB of digital photographs." Both Picture CD offerings include a fully featured 30-day trial version of SmartDisk MVP Software, so users can easily organize and print digital images in electronic albums and create unique slide shows by combining photos with music.
The Picture CD-R can store up to 700MB or 7,000 images at 48x write speed, while the Picture CD-RW can store up to 700MB or 6,000 images at 4x write speed.
Both the Picture CD-R and CD-RW 5-packs are available this month at suggested retails of $4.99 and $6.99, respectively."New digital cameras and similar products that are truly portable have led to increased interest in new storage options, including optical technology and flash memory products," said John Bock, VP/sales for consumer markets at Elmsford, N.Y.-based Fuji Photo Film U.S.A.
"One of the demands from consumers has been for media products with increased capacity that will hold larger amounts of digital content and provide users with the ability to easily access and share ideas and information. Advances in optical technology have impacted the consumer market," Bock said. "DVDs and CDs are incredibly flexible and inexpensive tools for storing anything from audio to video to data."
With capacity driving Fujifilm's research and product development, the company is offering a number of new blank media products. The CD-R 80 is designed for a variety of uses, including audio recording and data storage. A product stores 700MB or 80 minutes of music on a single disc and is said to be compatible with all consumer CD recording equipment currently available. Suggested retail for the CD-R All Purpose 10-pack Spindle Hang Tab is $9.99 a pack.
To achieve high quality recording and high level of durability, Fujifilm's rewritable DVD+RW discs for general use utilize a high performance phase change material, which is said to be ideal for mass storage and long archival life.
The DVD+RW disc can record up to 4.7GB or 120 minutes of video, high-resolution photo images and large data files. The disc is compatible with DVD+RW recorders only and is currently available. Suggested retail is $9.99 each. "We're paying attention to what consumers are asking for," said Rich Martino, optical media product manager at Garden City, N.Y.-based TDK. "We are targeting niche markets with blank media specially designed and packaged so consumers can find exactly what they are looking for quickly and easily at retail outlets."
On the CD-R side, TDK will be introducing Pouch soft plastic slip covers for discs, as well as its American Spirit CD-R. This flag CD is among the new colors and images TDK is introducing on discs, because it feels consumers no longer want just plain white product. Suggested retails are $8.99 for the American Spirit in a jewel case 12-pack and $10.99 in the 20-piece cake box.
"Consumers also are asking for more variety in blank media, so TDK offers more colors, more surface options and more packaging configurations than anyone else," Martino said.
"The new American flag "Spirit" CD-R also is being introduced as more and more consumers are showing their patriotism with their spending habits. And portions of the proceeds from the sales will be donated to charity," he said.
For digital photography enthusiasts, TDK is offering Photo Storage CD-R for digital archiving. This product can be found in retail photography departments, as well as personal computer departments.
"On the DVD media side, TDK is committed to being a total recording and playback solution provider," Martino continued. "To that extent, we offer all formats of DVD media, +R/RW, -R/RW and RAM.
"We also offer that media in a variety of packaging configurations, including jewel cases and our new Movie packaging, like a commercially released DVD, so consumers can store their own DVD projects next to their DVD movies."
Suggested retails are $7.99 for the DVD-R General and $8.99 for the DVD-RW. The DVD+R has a suggested $7.99 retail and the DVD+RW is $9.99.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.