Sony has uprated the specification of its AIT-1 and 2 drives to improve their reliability and reduce their environmental impact. A new front bezel design helps prevent dust getting into the drives. Clemens Schuette, senior manager, marketing communications for Sony in Europe, said, "People may eject the catridge from the drive but leave it actually in the drive, for up to a day sometimes, where it sticks out about half an inch. Dust can settle on it and enter the drive if the cartridge is re-inserted. The new cover design seals the drive in this case."

Research showed that just over half of all end-user tape drive failures are caused by dust. Testing in Sony's Tokyo lab indicated that the new cover design is 20 times more dust-resistant than before. Sony claims that it's also up to 50 times more resistant to dust entry than DDS drives.

The drive's internal CPU and memory have both been uprated. Schuette said, "This is for the data compression and error correction. The data compression for some file formats is very complicated and if it takes too long this could slow the external performance of the drive." The CPU has been enhanced and high-speed SRAM is used for its memory. The IC chip that carries out error correction for buffer memory has also been enhanced. This should be transparent to end-users. They will notice a new LED display which indicates a tape's direction and whether it needs to be cleaned or replaced. The new cover design means AIT-1 and 2 drives now conform closely to the AIT-3 drive's appearance.

The new internal componentry has eliminated the need for a cooling fan, it being replaced with a heat sink. The drives now have reduced power consumption, dropping from 12 to 10Watts. The component and design updates will be applied to all AIT tape drives over the next couple of months, commencing with SCSI interface AIT-1 and 2 units, which should be available from the end of November.