The window for Blu-ray success is rapidly closing (see Blu-ray is dead. Heckuva job, Sony!). Which means that 50 GB writable disks will never cost $0.35 a piece.
What is a storage hungry consumer to do?
Massive removable/transportable storage
Together cheap CD/DVD media, thumb drives and ever-growing file sizes killed floppies, Zip drives and all the other removable magnetic disk media. Removable optical media may be next.
Historically, successful PC removable media have stayed in a fairly narrow capacity band relative to hard drives – somewhere between 10x and 50x. If the average PC has a 500 GB hard drive then a removable media between 10 GB and 50 GB is needed.
Dual-layer DVDs are just on the ragged edge of that number while dual layer Blu-ray could handle hard drives up to 2.5 TB. If Blu-ray will never achieve the ubiquity and low cost of DVDs what will fill the gap?
Meet the candidates
Flash drives are a promising alternative. Large capacity thumb drives are available today for about $2/GB. In 2 years those drives will be $.50 a gigabyte or less.
That doesn’t really compare to a Blu-ray writable media at $2 for 50 GB in 2 years, if that comes to pass. But flash drives do have advantages in size weight, ruggedness, and the ubiquity of USB ports.
Cloud storage is another option. For example, Mediasilo offers a service that stores and password protects individual files so the owner can control distribution.
Network bandwidth is the key bottleneck. Countries that have much faster Internet access than the United States could put this to work with some fairly large files. Here in the USA however it won’t be practical for large files for years to come.
Disk drives may be the most promising option. Smaller drives with better shock specs – check out Toshiba’s new 250 GB 1.8 inch drive – could handle just about any transportable application.
If drive vendors would start specifying their drives as an archive medium – even if it’s just five years – they might be able to sew up the home and SOHO archive market. The iVDR initiative is a step in the right direction, but like Blu-ray they are trying to serve too many markets.
Mempile and Inphase, 2 different approaches to high-capacity optical storage, are unlikely successors. Both appear viable for niche markets, but massive investment is required to take them to consumer ubiquity. What app will take them there?
The StorageMojo take
Removable media are the fruit flies of the storage industry: fast breeding and short lives. The pace of innovation is a good thing but a consumer standard needs a 10 year life.
Letting Hollywood drive next-generation media formats doesn’t work. Downloading will supplant physical media for consumers.
There will be no optical replacement for the writable DVD that offers its ubiquity, low cost and interchangeability. Like removable consumer magnetic media, optical has reached a dead end because there is no consumer driver for 250 GB+ optical media.
The good news: consumers will want to archive. There is a huge opportunity for the company that can figure it out.
Courteous comments welcome, of course.