Ricoh has announced plans for combination drives that will offer read, write and rewrite capabilities for CDs, plus DVD-ROM functions, all in a single unit.

The first drive is expected to feature a maximum six-speed CD-R, a four-speed CD-RW, a 24-speed CD-ROM and a four speed DVD-ROM.

Aimed at home and office users, who don't know whether to go for a CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW or DVD-ROM drive, Ricoh's Disc Media and Systems Centre (DMS-C) hopes its "four-in-one power technology" will cover all the bases.

Ricoh hopes to add rewritable DVD capabilities to the list of features as the product line develops, according to today's announcement. The company plans to support the 4.7GB DVD-media and -drive standard.

Tadatoshi Sakamaki, general manager of Ricoh's DMS-C division in Japan, emphasized in a published statement the importance of backward compatibility of DVD products with CD technology. He added that Ricoh aims to eliminate the need for multiple drives.

Sakamaki also predicted that computer manufacturers will adopt combination drives as a standard by 2001. He added that resellers are likely to offer them first as a custom-build option.

Ricoh has announced its intention to release the new product in Japan during the next three months, with the US to follow after software and compatibility testing. The European launch is likely to be delayed, as Ricoh - and other companies developing similar drives - adjust the software drivers, motherboards and screen compatibilities of the new devices for the PAL video standard.

The drives are likely to be released in Europe by the second quarter of next year, a source at Ricoh said.