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Innovation

Blu-ray's Hail Mary pass

The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) announced 2 new specs: BDXL (High Capacity Recordable and Rewritable discs) and IH-BD (Intra-Hybrid discs). Will either ever be successful?
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor on

The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) announced 2 new specs: BDXL (High Capacity Recordable and Rewritable discs) and IH-BD (Intra-Hybrid discs). Will either ever be successful?

What are they? BDXL is a spec for a 3 or 4 layer disk of 100 or 128 GB capacity, with the re-writeable version limited to 100 GB. Not Toshiba's 10-layer demo from last year, but a solid increase in capacity that uses the also recently spec'd 33 GB version.

The BDA says that BDXL is aimed at commercial archiving applications in media and medical and document imaging. A consumer version is also possible.

The IH-BD is something new: 1 25 GB BD-ROM layer with 1 25 GB BD-RE rewritable layer. A suggested use case:

. . . enable the user to view, but not overwrite, critical published data while providing the flexibility to include relevant personal data on the same physical disc. This allows for consumer specific applications where combining published content with related user data on a convenient, single volume is desirable.

The Storage Bits take This feels like the tech version of "Weekend at Bernie's." New specifications make it look like Blu-ray is progressing without the messy reality of actual capital investment and market acceptance.

The random access afforded by BDXL is a real advantage over tape - which now dominates media archive storage - but BDXLs much lower capacity and unproven lifespan will keep most current tape users from investing in it. There may be non-tape using niches it can harvest if the recorder and media costs are low enough, but that requires volume.

With LTO decks in the several $k range and LTO tape capacities at 2 TB or more, the BDXL media will have to come in at less than $10/disc to be competitive. That won't be easy for a niche market.

IH-BD is a "Field of Dreams" project: build it and they will come. How many people are going to add an IH-BD recorder to their home media system so they can generate gigabytes of data to go along with a commercial project?

As I noted in Optical storage: RIP:

New optical formats will get introduced - like 750 MB Zip drives and 5.7 GB Orb drives did - but they’ll stumble around the fringes of consumer acceptance before a quiet death. Many of the same forces that are killing BD - downloading, upconverting, cost - are closing in on optical media in general.

BDXL has to carve out a niche between cheap fast USB3 disks and proven and cheap-in-volume LTO tape. That won't be easy.

And if a hard-drive vendor decides to produce an archive-quality disk, that will be the end of low and slow optical in the consumer space. Give the Blu-ray gang credit for trying, but the economics and the use cases are against them.

Comments welcome, of course.

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