Monday, November 28, 2005

Maxell to offer 300GB holographic discs 'late 2006'

I love it when two warring giants both get trounced by an unseen upstart.

For years now, there has been a standards war going on regarding the successor to DVD. On the one hand, Blu-Ray, and on the other HD-DVD. Both products have been delayed, and there has been huge amounts of infighting and lack of cooperation between the camps.

But, while this fight has been going on, the next-generation (beyond HD-DVD and Blu-Ray) has been proceeding. The "Holographic Versatile Disc" (HVD) technology is nearing completion. Maxell is expecting to ship the first generation HVD drive by the end of next year.

The initial release from Maxell is expected to have a 300GB per-disc capacity with a data-transfer speed of 20MB/s. This is 3-times the capacity of a 4-layer Blu-Ray disc, 6.67 times the capacity of a 3-layer HD-DVD disc, and 33 times the capacity of a dual-layer DVD. The speed is as fast as an SATA interface (20MB/s is 160Mb/s) and as fast as all but the fastest tape storage devices.

Maxell believes the technology can eventually reach a capacity of 1.6TB per disc with a transfer speed of 120MB/s.

If this technology starts shipping before Blu-Ray and HD-DVD ship (which seems to be a distinct possibility), it could kill both of them off before they ever get started. Which would be poetic justice, given how much infighting and delaying has gone on so far.

In addition to its use for HD TV video distribution, the HVD technology has the potential to become the dominant standard for backup devices. If the 300G drive can ship for under $1000, with media for under $100, it will rival all but the largest tape storage systems. If the 1.6TB drive can ship for prices in the same range (say, under $2000 for the drive and under $150 for media) it can rival all other backup devices currently manufactured.

Similarly, if the price can drop even lower (say, under $300 for the drive and under $20 for media), it can effectively displace all other optical drive technology.

Here's to hoping this all works out. It's a good time to be a geek.

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