Optical media manufacturer TDK Corp predicts that at this year’s CeBIT fair several vendors of jukeboxes to the enterprise market will announce plans to use the new Blu-ray technology for which it has just begun shipping media.
Jean-Paul Eekhout, European director of corporate strategy for the Tokyo-based group, said companies using Sony Corp’s proprietary PDD technology will be looking to take other options.
Blu-ray Disc, or BD, is one of a series of next-generation optical storage technologies coming to market. TDK, Sony, and Panasonic are making the media; Sony, Philips, Sharp, Panasonic, Pioneer, and Samsung are producing drives; and Apple, Dell, and HP are planning to incorporate them into their devices. Hitachi, LG, Sharp, and Mitsubishi are planning loaders, while HP, TVC and Germany’s Disc (which acquired NSM) will all make jukeboxes.
BD’s primary target, like that of the competing HD-DVD format, is the consumer electronics market, where the advent of HDTV, at least in North America and Asia, is the great white hope to drive sales. The logic here is that once consumers have sampled the delights of high-definition viewing, they’ll want the same quality on recorded media.
The European market is more difficult because HDTV has yet to become a reality in most countries. This forces vendors like TDK to start seeding the market elsewhere, in the authoring and subtitling industries, as well as in high-end data storage for the enterprise market, replacing CD, DVD, and magneto-optical formats in jukeboxes.
Though a far smaller market that conventional magnetic disk (HDD), optical storage and its more esoteric cousin, MO, have always held their own in certain verticals like law firms and the AV industry, and it is this kind of customer that next-gen optical will be seeking to address with the significant increase in storage capacities that the new recording techniques (blue lasers instead of red ones) and formats enable.
BD starts out at 25GB on a single-layer platter, with 50GB in two layers (though still all on the same side) already on the horizon, and the potential for up to eight layers.
In the previous generation of optical storage for business, both CD and DVD competed with the more expensive MO, whose argument against their price advantage was that the cartridge-bound nature of its media meant better protection from accidental damage. The media also enjoyed a longer active life.
Blu-ray will compete in the enterprise market with PDD, another cartridge-encased format, and UDO, a further cartridge-bound format which was initially also championed by Sony but is now only marketed by UK vendor Plasmon. Like CD and DVD, Blu-ray will be cheaper than the competitors and available from a range of manufacturers, both in terms of the drives and the media.
For this reason Eekhout said it should be a popular second line for jukebox vendors offering PDD, the drives for which are available only from Sony. There is also a capacity factor. PDD holds 23GB and we are starting at 25GB, growing to 50GB in the second half of this year, he said.
BD’s direct competitor HD-DVD also targets the CE/entertainment market and is supported by a range of manufacturers including Toshiba, NEC, and Sanyo. But for now the HD-DVD camp appears to be focusing only the CE market, though at least one company with products for the professional space, HP, has announced its intention to support the HD-DVD format, even though it is also a mover and shaker within the Blu-ray Disc Association.
Blu-ray has the support of seven out of the eight major movie studios in the world (the exception is Universal), though two of the seven (Warner and Paramount) are also in the rival camp and belong to the HD-DVD Promotions Group as well as the Blu-ray Disc Association.