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GE tries to refocus image of holographic storage

Another potential dust-biter

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The replication speed should be okay for media content distribution. Customers looking to use GE's technology for archiving - the obvious initial market - may be concerned about the comparatively slow data write rate. Future consumers looking for a 3D movie-storing medium would be very concerned about a $100/disk cost, so that would need to come down enormously.

So far nobody has said anything about re-writable disks using GE's technology.

GE isn't going to manufacture drives and disks itself, and is looking instead to license the technology. Peter Lorraine, GE's lab manager, talking at an Emerging Tech conference last week, said that licence announcements could be expected soon. He also mentioned the notion of disks having the capacity of 100 Blu-ray disks, implying a 2.5TB or even 5TB capacity, gained by increasing the number of layers used for recording.

What is there to say that GE's holographic storage technology is not just the latest optical storage dust-biter? Blu-ray is not taking the market by storm, with a CH-DVD format posing competition for it in China. The Call/Recall 1TB holographic technology seems to be in the deep freeze. Inphase is trying to correct deficiencies in its drive revealed last year, and is currently as silent as the grave.

Despite what holographic storage boosters say about slow and short-lifetime tape, tape is here and tape is more reliable than it used to be. Much more so. We know 1.5TB LTO 5 drives are coming, with 3TB LTO 6 on LTO's roadmap and, insiders are whispering, two more LTO format generations with doubled capacities coming.

It's not as if GE has real money at risk here: at least, not "real" money in the "bet-the-company" InPhase sense. It's just an R & D exercise - although an impressive one - but GE's skin in the game is pretty thin and it has to talk up its technology, as it's got licensees to convince. A key is drive and disk volume and pricing. They have got to seem great value, compared to tape.

Tape owns the game for now and, if GE and it's putative licensees aim to make a dent in the tape market, convincing customers to move to a more expensive product could be a mug's game. ®

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