Philips squeeze CD-ROM drive in mobile devices

Philips is trying to squeeze the size of a CD drive and fit it into portable devices such as mobile phones, PDAs and digital...

Philips is trying to squeeze the size of a CD drive and fit it into portable devices such as mobile phones, PDAs and digital still cameras.

Using blue laser technology, the company has managed to miniaturise a drive for a 3cm diameter optical disc that can store up to a gigabyte of data, Philips said.

The company claims to be the world's first fully functional prototype optical drive by replaying audio data on a 3cm optical disc.

The data capacity of the disc is 1.5 times more than that offered by existing CD-ROMs, said Koen Joosse, a Philips spokesman. It was made possible using a blue laser, which has a shorter wavelength than red laser technology used in the optical disc technology. A shorter wavelength means that the laser beam can create smaller dots on optical discs, which means more data can fit on them.

Compared with flash storage media, which are used for conventional mobile devices such as digital still cameras, mobile phones and PDAs, CDs cost less. Therefore, Philips hopes the small discs will be as widely distributed as portable pre-recording and rewritable media, at lower cost than flash media, Joosse said.

"There is a number of challenges to get optical discs into small devices," said Wolfgang Schlichting, a research manager of removal storage at IDC.

There are three main points that need to be dealt with. First, optical drives are still costly to install in handheld devices. Second, the physical size of the optical drives, which have to be larger than the discs themselves, is inconvenient compared with flash memory cards. Lastly. as optical discs are rotating media, they consume more power than flash media.

"The technology is still at an early stage and we cannot determine when this will be commercialised," Philips' Joosse said. The company hopes to shrink the 0.75cm height of the drive, while the 3cm diameter for an optical disc is now small enough for mobile devices, he said.

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