Shizuo Takashino now led the General Audio Business Group, which had a proven track record with miniaturization. With his team, Takashino worked to complete the development of the MD system in time for a future sales launch. It was at the end of 1991 that the plan to develop a small recording device using a disc 6 cm in size was announced to the 14 members of the development team. All the engineers were experts in miniaturization and they had been involved in the development of both the Walkman and the D-50. Unfortunately, the schedule gave them only one year to develop the new product, which was timed to coincide with the launch of Philip's Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) in November 1992.
The engineers burned the midnight oil, even working on weekends. Concerned about the tough work schedule of his staff, Takashino wrote letters to the families of engineers, seeking their understanding and support. "We have entrusted the development of a technology that we consider very crucial to the future of Sony to a member of your family," he wrote. "This person is working very hard for the company and we are most grateful for the efforts being made."
MD music software and recording media were prepared along with the hardware for the scheduled launch date. By this time, CD software plants had been established in Japan, the US, and Europe, and they would be ready to handle MD software production as well. In Japan, Shugo Matsuo led the effort to acquire up to 500 MD titles within the year. Abroad, Michael Schulhof, then Chairman of Sony Music Entertainment and President of Sony Corporation of America took on the task of persuading record companies. In August 1992, mass production of MD software began in Japan. In autumn of the same year, production started abroad.
The Sendai plant began producing MD media in July 1992. The Recording Media Business Group had set to work immediately after the technology announcement, and Teruaki Aoki led the efforts to establish MD production facilities. Ohga coordinated the development of hardware, software and recording media for the MD system, and operations went smoothly.
Consumers and the mass media had created a furor over MD since its product announcements in September 1992, and in November a full line of new MD products was launched in Japan, ahead of the US and Europe. The recordable/playback MZ-1 model, the playback only MZ-2P, and the record-only MDW-60 were delivered to retailers nationwide along with 88 titles produced by Sony Music Entertainment. A "Try and Buy" campaign for the MD that allowed customers to test the product was launched at major electronic appliance stores in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. In December 1992, the recordable/playback and playback-only models were launched abroad with software titles.
With the launch of the CD in 1982 and the MD in 1992, the sales potential for digital audio products expanded vastly. In 1995, total annual sales of MD hardware in Japan reached one million units. The CD, originally developed for only music applications, soon found new uses in AV equipment, computers, games and other areas. The CD-ROM, standardized in 1985, is today used to store audio, video images and text. The Video CD, standardized in 1993, is utilized for recording audio and video images. Since the MD was developed to handle the same applications as the CD, the MD Data format was standardized in 1993 for audio, video and text recording. MD Pictures, a format for recording video images, was standardized in 1994.
At the end of 1995, a new, large capacity recording medium the same size as a CD and capable of storing an entire motion picture was standardized. Called DVD (Digital Video Disc), this new technology exhibits a capacity equal to seven CDs and promises to be the next generation information and recording media. Initially, manufacturers were divided into two camps. Sony and Philips advocated a single-disc, multimedia CD system, and a group of seven Japanese, US and European companies led by Toshiba advocated a super density, double-sided disc system achieved by adhering two discs back-to-back. Discussions spilled over into the movie software field and the computer industry. In the end, the two camps reached consensus on the need to establish a common, single standard to benefit consumers, and the merits of both systems were recognized. Finally, manufacturers began product development aiming for product launches at the end of 1996.
Digital technology, which flourished with the development of the CD, has expanded with the endorsement of the disc as its medium. At the same time, digital audio technology contributed to the advance of the cassette tape. In 1987, Sony introduced a superb sound quality recording system, DAT (Digital Audio Tape). The sound quality of a DAT equals a CD. Based on DAT technology, in 1992 Sony launched a digital microcassette recorder, the NT-1, which uses a postage-sized microcassette tape.
Digital technology continues to enjoy further expansion, in the area of both disc and tape.