HP targets multimedia generation with new drives

Hewlett-Packard Co. opened up multimedia options for its customers Tuesday with the release of two new drives for use with CDs and DVDs.

The hardware maker released its first drive able to both read and write CDs and play DVDs (digital versatile disc). The 9900ci internal drive allows users to store media files such as MP3 files or digital images, while also giving customers a chance to watch DVD movies or play multimedia games.

"Previous products have been quite a bit lower in performance and have been a bit compromised," said Dean Sanderson, North American product manager at HP. "We waited to come out with this because of the performance it delivers."

HP will also make software available to add a few more bells and whistles to the movie watching and game playing abilities on the DVD side of the new drive.

HP additionally launched its CD-Writer 9710i internal drive as a way for consumers to write information quickly onto a CD. Using 16x writing speeds, a user could burn about 74 minutes of audio information onto a CD in five minutes, according to Sanderson.

With both drives, HP will bundle software to help organize a user's multimedia content. The applications will ease the creation of CD labels and personalized case covers, the sharing of media files with friends and ways to back up critical data, according to a news release from HP.

HP started shipping the new products to its partners this week and expects online sellers to have the units available at some point in the next two weeks. Retailers should have the products shortly thereafter.

The 9900ci will be priced starting at US$349, and the 9710i will cost $299.

Apple Computer Inc. supports a competing standard on writeable DVDs and earlier this year came out with its SuperDrive that can read and write both CDs and DVDs on one drive. Pioneer Corp. manufactured the drive for Apple, and both companies expect the high-end product to draw the attention of consumers using their PCs as an entertainment hub. [See "Jobs shows OS X features, new G4s, PowerBooks," Jan. 9.]HP, based in Palo Alto, California, can be reached at +1-650-857-1501 or on the Web at http://www.hp.com/. Apple, in Cupertino, California, can be reached at +1-408-996-1010 or at http://www.apple.com/.

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