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Launch Delay For DataPlay

After following a seemingly smooth product development road, DataPlay is being forced to push back the introduction of its 500MB removable storage media and hardware from this fall to early 2002.

Citing delays in setting up mass production of the micro optical engine that writes and reads data to the quarter-size optical discs that is the heart of the new format, the company has decided to wait until the first quarter of 2002 before shipping product, said Steve Volk, DataPlay’s CEO. DataPlay had intended for its first audio players and media to be ready for retail some time around October.

“Let me say that this delay is entirely our fault and not our partners. We expected to be in volume production by September and are a couple of months late,” Volk said. He could not say which month the products will be available.

The primary culprit was designing the robotics to build the micro optical engines and transferring this technology to the factories that will handle the production. Volk said the fact that almost all the technology needed to create the micro optical engine had to be invented by DataPlay and that made building the robotics even more difficult.

On the blank media side, a factory in Taiwan is up and running without any problems, Volk said.

Trying to put the best face forward, he said the delay will enable the company to launch both digital cameras and portable music players at the same time. The original fall introduction date would have only included the latter devices. In addition, more pre-recorded titles should be available for the 2002 launch.

With the all-important holiday season approaching, not all retailers are seeing the delay in the same light. Tasso Koken, executive VP/marketing and merchandising for the New York-area 43-store chain The Wiz, said DataPlay’s launch was highly anticipated. The Wiz had hoped to participate in what was expected to be the high-profile launch of DataPlay, Koken told TWICE earlier this year.

The delay will have a ripple effect on the various OEM manufacturers lined up to produce hardware, blank and pre-recorded media based on the format. In June Imation, the first company officially tapped as a DataPlay licensee, displayed three DataPlay-based devices at PC Expo along with blank media it was readying for sale this fall.

At International CES 2001, Samsung showed a large line of audio players, PDAs, and a DataPlay PC card reader that it was developing and a Toshiba representative said the company was set to make product, as well. Other companies that have developed products are Creative Labs and S3, which showed mock-ups at CES.

DataPlay wrapped up its latest round of funding in June with the addition of Kodak and Intel to a list that already included Olympus Optical, Intel Capital, Imation and Trans World Entertainment, which owns music retailers Strawberries and The Wall, along with several venture capital groups.

The financial and OEM partners could not be reached at press time.