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Sony's announcement follows moves by other vendors racing to release high-capacity tape cartridges and faster tape drives.
Quantum announced last month that it intends to boost the compressed storage capacity of its Super Digital Linear Tape (SDLT) product to 600GB and a 64MB/sec. data transfer rate by mid-2003. At present, SDLT drives can store up to 320GB of compressed data.
IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Seagate Technology are the market leaders in super-tape-drive technology, with linear tape-open (LTO) products.
Last month, HP shipped the first version of a second-generation LTO product that has a 400GB compressed data capacity and 60MB/sec throughput.
Robert Amatruda, an analyst at research company IDC, said that from a technology standpoint, Sony's product is "a significant improvement from anything out there right now".
"The key for Sony is to work on bringing the technology mainstream," he said, referring to the need for the company to market the new drive to vendors of tape libraries.