Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Storage Wars for HD DVD Posted by Hello

This time last year, dual-layer optical drives were big news. Sony introduced a prototype double-layer drive, and in June 2004, most of the major manufacturers started rolling out the first double-layer drives. With single-layer drives already maxing out write speeds, expect to see double-layer write speeds ratcheting up at CES. We also see more standalone DVD burners that don't require a PC - you simply connect them directly to a camera or a VCR.

Blue Laser Wars

The real star of Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas 2005 is blue-laser technology, and the rivalry between the DVD Forum-backed Blu-ray standard and the NEC-Toshiba sponsored HD-DVD format. Though consumer products are only available in Japan, there are hints that 2005 will see blue-laser products in Europe and the US retail space, albeit at prohibitive prices.

The Blu-ray format focuses on capacity: a single-layer ROM will hold about 23GB of data and a double-layer ROM will hold about 50GB. The single layer system is the basis for Sony's XDCAM professional disc system for broadcasters, with the individual re-writable discs costing around 36 Euros per disc.

In the other corner, the HD-DVD camp believes that its strength is backward compatibility: the HD-DVD discs are physically more like current DVDs (single-layer HD-DVDs will hold 15GB and double-layer discs will hold 30GB). This means that the manufacturers of DVD media and drives should be able to produce HD-DVD media and equipment with minimal fuss, and consumers will be able to have HD-DVD drives that can also read CD and DVD formats.

Most people will simply wait to see how the format war shakes out before committing. The industry is waiting to see which way Hollywood turns, as this will probably determine the format that succeeds. It's unlikely that this duel will end as peacefully as the +R/-R wars did with combo CD drives. One is going to be the overall winner.