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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Holographic Challenge for DVDs

If you thought Blu-ray and HD-DVD were the only new disc formats coming out this decade, think again. The emergence of holographic data storage technology may hamper growth for the two rival high-definition formats in the years to come.

Holographic data storage has existed for 40 years, but is just coming to the commercial market and may reach the consumer market by 2007. The new DVD formats promoted by Sony (Blu-ray) and Toshiba (HD-DVD) are expected to go on sale in early 2006.

As opposed to the blue laser technology used both in Blu-ray and HD-DVD, holographic storage goes beyond recording the surface of the disc and records through the full depth of the medium.

Longmont, Colorado-based InPhase Technologies has formed an alliance with Hitachi Maxell to sell discs the size of a DVD that can store 300 GB of data. By comparison, Blu-ray discs will be able to hold 50 GB and HD-DVD discs will store about 30 GB. InPhase’s Tapestry holographic system can store more than 26 hours of broadcast-quality high-definition video.

While other technologies record one data bit at a time, holography allows a million bits of data to be written and read in parallel with a single flash of light. So transfer rates are significantly higher than current optical storage devices.

As a result, the holographic discs also can read and write data at 10 times the speed of the DVDs currently in the market, or six times that of blue laser discs.

Commercial holographic discs will go on sale by the end of 2006. The initial product, called Tapestry Media, will come in the form of 130mm discs made from a photopolymer material.

InPhase is currently marketing the product to enterprises that can afford the high cost of the discs and readers. Currently, the reader costs a lofty $15,000 each, while one single disc costs $120—clearly unaffordable for the consumer market, Liz Murphy, vice president of marketing at InPhase, said Monday.

The hopes to fill the archival needs in the commercial markets for specific applications such as security, geospatial imagery, entertainment and broadcast, medical, and scientific applications, Ms. Murphy said.

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