Just like the Beta versus VHS wars of the 1980s there is another standards war brewing between BluRay and HD-DVD. Sony have announced that they will be utilising Blue-Ray in the upcoming Playstation 3 console while Microsoft have given their support to HD-DVD which they have said may become a feature in future models of Xbox360.
However, there is new kid in town, announced this week by Maxell. Holographic storage has been a pipe-dream and a fantasy of many scientists the world over and for over 20 years they have been working to achieve it. The medium works by storing information chemically on light sensitive crystals within the layers of a disc. Holographic recording technology uses two lasers to store data in a number of 3D hologram images, each with the ability to save hundreds of pages in one location. Maxell claims one 5¼ inch-diameter disc can store up to 150 million pages. Of the lasers, one acts as a reference beam while the other carries the data stream. The image is made at the intersection of the two beams and as such, an enormous number of bits can be stored in one physical location based on the changing angle of the reference beam as it repeatedly hits the same physical space on the disc.
Maxell are working closely with InPhase Inc, who have created the technology, and have announced their first discs will have a capacity of 300GB with a throughput of 20Mbps. This is comparable with the speeds achieved by most PC hard drives. Turner Entertainment have also announced that they are planning to sell discs that will retail for about $100 and they are aiming for them to reach a 1.6 Terrabyte capacity at 160Mbps within 5 years.
The applications for this technology are endless and considering each disc is said to have a lifespan of 50+ years, this makes holographic storage a viable and cheap way of storing long term data. At this time, no announcements have been made with respect to re-writable holographic discs but if history is any indicator, it's just a matter of time. Who will win the coming standards war is unclear. If Sony gets the support of the Playstation fans they could establish their BlueRay technology as they did with DVD or Microsoft may pull a rabbit out of their hat and push HD-DVD. Frankly, we hope Holographic storage blows them out of the water, it would teach them both a lesson for not working together for a standard that benefits both consumers and their own bottom lines.