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Friday, December 02, 2005

HVD Looms

The whole article can be viewed at the following link http://biz.gamedaily.com/features.asp?article_id=11193&section=feature

Blu-ray/HD DVD Could Become Irrelevant as HVD Nears
When it comes to the format war, all the talk has been about Blu-ray and HD DVD, but another more advanced technology could actually replace both before they even really have a chance to make their respective marks. Holographic disks can store a ton of data and can read and write data faster as well...

While the Sony-led Blu-ray camp and the Toshiba-led HD DVD group battle it out to determine which format will become the successor to traditional DVD, another format is being developed that could quickly make both HD DVD and Blu-ray seem obsolete.

Incredible storage capacity
Called Holographic Versatile Disc (HVD), this emerging technology has been in the works (at least conceptually) for about 20 years. It wasn't until the beginning of the 21st century that real advances were made, however. Holographic disk storage allows for much higher density than DVDs by storing data as light patterns throughout the volume of the polymer disc, or three dimensions. HVD can apparently store up to 60 times the data of a regular DVD and it can read and write data 10 times faster as well.

The two major players in this emerging holographic storage field are InPhase Technologies (an American company) and Japanese firm Optware Corp. Optware recently opened a U.S. branch and intends to launch 200GB HVD drives by the end of 2006; by 2008, the company is aiming to hit the 1TB mark. InPhase also plans on shipping its own 200GB drives by the end of next year. The company has partnered with Hitachi Maxell Ltd. to market the new technology.

[ "With Blu-ray and HD DVD not even on the market yet... it's certainly possible that the real format leap won't truly come until holographic technology is ushered in." ]

According to InPhase, its Tapestry holographic system can store more than 26 hours of broadcast-quality high-definition video on a single 300GB disk, recorded at a 160 megabit per second (Mb/s) data rate. HVD also can hold data for over 50 years without any sign of deterioration, which when combined with its massive capacity makes it an ideal solution for television networks to store all their video.

Attracting networks
In fact, Turner Entertainment, a subsidiary of Turner Broadcasting System, has already turned to holographic tech, making it the first television network to air content originating on holographic storage. Turner has more than 200,000 movies as well as thousands of commercials stored on digital tape. As the library grows, retrieval time and maintaining the tapes becomes costly, especially as more HD content is adopted.

"The holographic disk promises to retail for $100, and by 2010, it will have capacity of 1.6TB each. That's pretty inexpensive," Ron Tarasoff, vice president of broadcast technology and engineering at Turner Entertainment told Computerworld.com. "Even this first version can store 300GB per disk, and it has 160MB/sec. data throughput rates. That's burning. Then combine it with random access, and it's the best of all worlds."

Consumer market next
Both InPhase and Optware are currently targeting the market from an archival perspective—for example, it would be entirely possible to store whole movie libraries on just one disk. However, for the consumer market the companies also are working on developing disks that would be less than half the physical size of DVDs but could hold around 30GB.

With Blu-ray and HD DVD not even on the market yet and HVD fast closing in, it's certainly possible that the real format leap won't truly come until holographic technology is ushered in. Keep in mind that most consumers have only fully embraced DVD movies in the last 2-3 years and will likely be slow to adopt either Blu-ray or HD DVD, just as they were slow to move away from VHS.

And if video game developers like the idea of Blu-ray in the PlayStation 3, just imagine how pleased they'd be with the vast storage and increased read times of HVD in the generation of consoles following PS3. For now, though, all we can do is wait and see how all these formats work themselves out.

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