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who's making 16X CD-R media?

Stephen Clark Jr.

March 30, 2021 | As 16X has gradually become the new magic number for CD-R media recording speeds, and 16X drives have begun to make inroads in terms of market penetration, the question of the moment is: who's making 16X CD-R media?

Quite a few companies, it turns out, have already brought 16X CD-R media to store shelves. Because 16X media is backwards-compatible with drives ranging from 4X to 16X recording speeds, owners of slower drives can still make use of the media--even if they can't immediately take advantage of the 16X top speed. Disc manufacturers face very little risk in bringing media to a market that--especially on the consumer side--may be saturated with 8X and 12X drives. "Both corporate and consumer users--especially the corporate users--may buy the media without fully needing it," says Chris Bailey, digital and optical products manager at TDK. "The retailers will also want to have the faster 16X media on their shelves, as opposed to the slower 8X or 12X." Adds Memorex' Jim Noyd, "All of our media is now 16X."

There's one notable absence from the mass accession to 16X. CD-R's raging price wars have claimed their first significant victim. As of February 28, 2001, major media player Ricoh Disc Manufacturing Services Corporation (DMS-C) has decided to shut down its United States disc manufacturing operations, citing the inability to compete with the large Asian manufacturers. "Ricoh has decided to cease disc manufacturing in the United States for financial reasons," says Chris Katayama, director of Ricoh USA. "We can no longer be competitive in the U.S. against the big Taiwanese companies."

As manufacturers continue to cut prices to remain competitive, Ricoh has found that it's harder to make a profit. "The market price is low," says Katayama of volume disc sale prices that have dipped below a quarter a disc and left mere slivers of profitability above manufacturing, marketing, and licensing costs. Ricoh isn't completely quitting the media manufacturing game, however. The company still has plans to continue disc production at its plants in Taiwan and Japan, and plans to focus on business in the U.S.

While Ricoh's exit from the U.S. CD-R manufacturing scene could be interpreted as an ominous sign of the market to come, the remaining manufacturers are apparently optimistic about the state of the market. The adoption of 16X drives may be a little sluggish on the consumer side, as most home users are not pressed to upgrade from 8X or 12X drives. On the corporate side, however, where speed and throughput are much more critical, 16X seems to be catching on at a much faster rate. "We have a very large corporate and high-tech market, and they are all switching over to faster drives," says Laura Huber, marketing manager at Mitsui Advanced Media, Inc.

Even as consumers are getting their hands on cutting-edge 16X drives and media, many media manufacturers are already preparing for higher-speed 20X and 24X drives. "There's an indication of 20X, possibly 24X, and Verbatim will release media to coincide with any new drives," says Ron Hanafan, optical products manager, Verbatim. "Mitsui has actually switched over to 16X, and is working on 24X," says Huber. Latest reports indicate that the higher-speed drives will debut at COMDEX, if not sooner. Expect the media to meet them there.

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