Roxio, Adaptec's spin-off company devoted exclusively to software development, announced its improved CD-authoring solution, Toast 5, at Macworld Expo.

Victor Nemechick, product manager for Toast, welcomed Apple's foray into the CD-authoring market. He said: "It's great that Apple has realized that CD recording is important. It's excellent that they are installing CD writers on their systems. We welcome Apple to the business." On a more cautious note, he warned: "We wish them luck, as CD-authoring and developing compatibility with the CD writers produced for the market is not as easy as they think it is."

"We do welcome the move - it's good for our business as it will get more people working with CD recording."

Something for everyone On Toast 5, he said: "We conducted research, and found that 93 per cent of CDs are used to record data, audio and to copy other CDs. So, we tried to develop Toast 5 as a system that can do everything that everyone needs. The application is also capable of writing to a number of different file-formats."

One major feature of Toast 5 – scheduled for release in April or May – is the ability to author CDs in the background.

"It's very stable," said Nemechick, "We've found that the application stays up and the transmission rates remain constant whatever else you are working on. You really have to put the processor through its paces to make the authoring process fail."

DVD and DLT (not that DLT!) The application can also write DVDs. Roxio integrated Toast DVD, a separate product, into Toast 5. It can also write to digital linear tape (DLT).

The application will run on Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X. On porting to OS X, he said: "We encountered no development issues to speak of when we made the port. We thought it would be a bigger effort than it turned out to be."

Aqua look Toast's interface is now far more user-friendly, and reflects Apple's slick OS X interface. Control buttons remain system-generated, so when the application runs on Mac OS X the interface appears completely Aquafied. The controls which used to sit on Toast's second dialogue screen have also been integrated into the first dialogue box of the application. Toast offers users three single-button controls for common tasks - audio, data and CD copying, with a fourth button, 'Other' for more complex tasks.

The application will record audio CDs using drag-&-drop. New in Toast 5 is the ability to drag-&-drop QuickTime files - the application will separate the audio from these, and burn them to CD. This means it can now record any file type that QuickTime understands.

Fest up Nemechek attributed many of Toast's improvements to the efforts of Marcus Fest, original developer of the application. He said: "He knows absolutely everything there is to know about CD authoring. He has been able to develop some radical improvements to the application."

Other features include the ability to title the CD within the application, and support for Apple's Extended File System for longer file names. The application will also encode MPEG files, so iMovies can be burnt to CD as Video CDs. These will playback on most consumer DVD players.

The application ships with iView Multimedia, a multimedia file-management system also capable of creating slide shows and thumbnail catalogues. QDesign's MVP is bundled, a digital-media player that can playback, record and translate audio and video files. CD Spin Doctor is also included. This application helps burn old LPs and tapes to CD, and stereo connection cables ship in the box. A CD-labelling utility, Discus, is also included.

Test or robust The application is about to enter an extensive beta-testing cycle.

Nemechek said: "We want to ensure the application is robust, and are going to put it through extensive testing. This is why Toast will not ship until spring 2001."

Problems ahead for Apple On Apple CEO Steve Jobs' public dig at Toast during his keynote speech, Nemechek said: "In a way, being singled out for criticism by Jobs is an endorsement of how pervasive our product has become. We've been in this business for many years - we know that manufacturers' implementation of the technologies involved in CD-authoring can be quirky. My guess is that Apple will have more problems implementing CD-writing technologies than they expect."

He revealed that over one million versions of Toast 4 have shipped, including versions of the software bundled with third-party CD-authoring units. He also told Macworld that over 50 million CD-writing units have shipped worldwide since CD authoring was born.

"Every different CD writer has a different implementation of drive and interface between the drive and Mac. We have already developed solutions for all of these, but this will be a challenge for Apple and iTunes."

Rumours on the showfloor claimed that Steve Jobs had originally requested the source code for Toast from Roxio to be bundled with Apple's computers, but had offered no financial incentive to make the deal worthwhile to the company.