Thursday, May 18, 2006

New Generation Optical Storage

One storage option that you can skip for now is the recently introduced Blu-ray drive from Samsung, the eloquently named SH-B022 BD Writer, pictured below, among the first of a new generation of drives that can write up to 50GB (more than 10 DVDs) onto a single disc. This is done using a blue laser (hence the Blu-ray moniker) rather than the red lasers found in current CD and DVD writers. This is analogous to using a finer-tipped pen for writing, thus allowing more words to be written to a page.

The main driver for such high capacity storage discs is High Definition TV (Or HDTV as it has become known). With the advent of HDTV, which will be available in Ireland from SKY later this year, current DVD discs do not have sufficient storage capacity for a two-hour movie. So a new format needed to be found for storing HD movies. Unfortunately two solutions were found: Blu-ray, which was developed by a consortium comprised of Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Warner Brothers and Walt Disney, among others - all heavy hitters in the electronics/entertainment industries; and HD-DVD or High Definition Digital Versatile Disc, which was developed by Toshiba and supported by NEC, Sanyo, Microsoft, Intel, Paramount Pictures and Universal studios.

Many of you may remember a similar situation back in the early eighties when two formats of video recorder were introduced simultaneously: Betamax by Sony and VHS by JVC. In that battle the technically superior Betamax format lost out to VHS after a number of years of bitter competition. The lesson that should have been learned from that debacle is that only one format will win the battle if the two are non-compatible - as was the case with Betamax and VHS and as is the case with Blu-ray and HD-DVD (the latter discs only store 15GB of data as opposed to Blu-ray's 50GB).

Like all new technologies the early adopter pays a premium for the privilege of being among the first to use it. Samsung's new Blu-ray writer will set you back €850, and you'll have to pay €46 for each blank 50GB disc - not for the faint-hearted. However, expect prices to drop significantly in the future for whichever format wins the war. Back in August 2001, less than 5 years ago, a Pioneer DVR-A03 DVD writer for your PC would have cost you €960 ex-VAT! For now, look elsewhere for a backup solution.

No comments: