While the bickering between HD DVD and Blu-ray has become tiresome to say the least an alternative contender is sneaking up behind them.
Holographic storage, a much theorised and much delayed medium which has regularly threatened to become vapourware, has finally begun shipping to industrial customers this week. It was originally supposed to appear midway through 2006.
Now as you might expect of any space age sounding storage medium the major bonus in comparison to existing solutions is capacity. Whereas HD DVD and Blu-ray can store 15GB and 25GB per layer respectively, holographic discs will manage 300GB per disc initially with this being increased to an incredible 1.6TB per disc by Q4 this year.
The downside, predictably, is cost. Currently the drive needed to write to this media (the ‘Tapestry HDS-300R’) costs nearly $18,000 and InPhase admits it won’t be compatible with 1.6TB discs! In addition, it can only write once to a holographic disc whereas second generation drives will feature re-writeable functionality.
Interestingly however as prices comes down holographic discs could easily present a viable consumer storage alternative to both HD DVD and Blu-ray since the media can emulate DVD, CD-R, magnetic optical disc and even tape drive so software companies won’t need to make any major changes to write to it in native mode.
InPhase may not be the last word in this area either with rival Optware still claiming it will produce a holographic drive for around £1,000 and 30GB cartridges that cost just 50p. Rather ominously however its website has been “Under Maintenance” for some time now.
Personally, after so long in development, I hope holographic storage does take off and scale down into the consumer space... if only to give me another format to write about...