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Holographic storage kingpin turns staff and product into an illusion

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Holographic storage developer InPhase Technologies has been promising the imminent arrival of its 300GB Tapestry drives for three years. But the constant setbacks and delays have now forced the Longmont, Colorado-based firm to cut a substantial amount of its workforce, according to several reports.

InPhase was formed in 2000 as a spin-off venture of Lucent, with a bold prognosis that 3D storage would offer densities well beyond anything seen in current technologies. At the time InPhase dismissed the slow advancements in the medium as a result of funding and material issues. And with backing from three venture capital firms, InPhase promised some real results.

The firm expected to debut its 300GB Tapestry disks and drives by late 2006 as a premiere offering. That date was later pushed back to February 2007. Then May 2008.

Apparently the delays have forced InPhase to cut a substantial amount of its workforce. According to an anonymous tipster, the Longmont, Colorado-based company fired "roughly half" its 130 staff on May 30 in both engineering and research.

InPhase would not return our call, but a report from a local paper, the Longmont Times-Call, cites CEO Nelson Diaz claiming the portion was "less than 40" people.

Our source blames the product delays on management setting unrealistic time goals, and Diaz refusing to listen to any realistic reports or roadmaps from the engineering team.

"They might be able to get enough money to finish, but it's going to take significant time still," we're told.

Meanwhile Diaz told the Times-Call that the company now expects to ship the Tapestry drive by December.

Cough.

The first products are supposed to consist of 120mm (~4.75-inch) diameter clear plastic disks inside a cartridge case. Data is stored holographically in the depth of the disks surface using a blue laser at a write speed of 20MB/sec. The first drives are supposed to be priced at $18,000, and the disks at $180 each in volume.

Our source said the environment of InPhase is unfortunate because the science behind holographic storage is sound — if given enough time and money.

"There are still issues that need to be resolved, but they are solvable." ®

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