more than five years, the industry has beaten the drums, sounded the
trumpets and lined the streets waiting for recordable DVD to change
the face of the storage market. The
“logic” was overwhelming:
CD capacity is only a fraction of the capacity available with DVDs
CD technology lacks the application versatility
CD-RW is a technology looking for a market because rewriteable DVD will kill it before it fully emerges
were many other reasons why the DVD machine would simply crush the CD
market; and while DVD is showing exceptional sales growth and
potential, the “tried and true” compact disc technology
continues to be universally used. As the performance and prices of
drives and media continue to improve, PC manufacturers and end users
uncover new reasons to justify the co-existence of CDs and DVDs.
the consumers’ rush to produce their own custom audio CDs has
been an important factor in increasing drive and media sales.
However, data transfer, data archiving and storing downloads from the
Internet were the applications CD technology was initially developed
to support. Data storage remains the primary reason virtually every
PC today is sold with a CD-RW drive and the reason many industry
analysts feel that CD technology will still be widely used through at
Quick Look Back
mid-1970s, Philips and Sony joined forces to develop a high-capacity
optical storage solution for the then fledgling computer industry.
There were no pre-established concepts of the “right”
answers; only that the new solution had to provide reliable,
long-term storage for digital data and be economical to produce and
At the time, the options were pretty bleak:
stacks of punched cards
reels of environmentally sensitive microfilm that were difficult to use
large and temperamental Winchester drives and disks
an emerging 8-inch removable storage medium called a floppy disc that was susceptible to stray magnetics, dust and light and held only a few Megabytes of digital data
capacity, performance and quality of Winchesters and floppies
improved, members of the joint development program adjusted their
objectives and applications. In the late ‘70s, Philips and
Sony attracted the interest of the music industry; and in 1980,
introduced compact disc digital audio. The duo finally had a
customer and could focus on developing a universal solution for
audio, video and data storage.
With the development of recordable CD technology, other
firms joined in developing the universal solution, including Ricoh, Yamaha and
Verbatim’s parent company, Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation. In the early ‘90s,
when CD-R was introduced with drives priced at $2,500 and 650MB media priced at
$50, John Freeman, president of Strategic Marketing Decisions, heralded CD-R as
the most significant invention since the creation of paper.
The 650MB storage
capacity prompted Freeman and other industry gurus to paint verbal
pictures of the “paperless” office. By 1996,
CD-ReWriteable (CD-RW) had emerged, drive prices had dropped below
$1,000 and media was available for less than $20 a disc. The
technology offered the low storage cost and content formatting
structure for storing data, backups, multimedia images, photos, video
and audio files. It also provided a low-cost solution for archiving
and data interchange.
Looking into the
future, the hardware and media firms joined forces with the computer
and motion picture industry to develop the next-generation solution.
This solution would provide even better performance, economy and
capacity; it would be even more scalable and extensible; and it would
be backward compatible with the growing customer base of
writeable/rewriteable CD users.
In addition to
increasing the storage capacity to 700MB, CD manufacturers focused on
improving the price and performance of the drives and media. Despite
the fact that OEM drive prices had dropped well below $100 and CD-R
media was under $1, industry analysts pointed to the quality,
capacity, performance and economies of DVD and quickly predicted that
CD, especially CD-RW, would soon become part of storage history.
Impressive DVD Growth Path
DVD has experienced
phenomenal success since its introduction in 1997. According to DVD
Entertainment Group reports, the one-billionth DVD was shipped to
retail by mid-2002 and 40 million households will have DVD units by
the end of 2002.
Reporting that digital
cameras and camcorders sales have grown to more than 50 million this
year and forecasting even stronger growth over the next three years,
firms like Jon Peddie Research are quick to point out that recordable
DVD is the next big thing. They, and other industry analysts, are
basing these predictions on the fact that consumers want to move
seamlessly from their camera to their home player.
Video is the key (some
call it "killer") application for recordable DVD (Fig. 1).
Just as people have shown they want to produce their own audio CDs,
they want to produce their own TV-quality movies. With all of the
new video production software that is now available, consumers can
produce and share videos that have all of the titles, special effects
and presentation of theater-quality movies.
Now that high-end home
PCs include recordable DVD drives, IDC forecasts that drive sales
will be strong for the next five years and will reach 50 million
units a year by 2006 (Fig. 2). Pointing to the expanding recordable DVD
production capacity and the dramatic drop in end user prices, Peddie is
confident that more than 250 million discs will be sold annually by 2004 (Fig.
the growing acceptance of DVD appears to dictate the rapid demise of
CD technology, SMD’s Freeman and IDC’s Wolfgang
Schlichting are quick to point out that nearly 70 million CD-RW
drives shipped last year and the installed base is over 130 million
units worldwide. Both firms estimate that by 2005, more than 400
million drives will be in use in personal and business computers.
These analysts, and
others, emphasize that for most data and audio applications, CD-R/RW
will continue to do the job very well. In fact, today's 700MB
capacity is more than sufficient for most of our needs (Fig. 4). At
the same time, the technology has been continually enhanced and users
can be nearly 100 percent confident that they can send documents,
data or images to someone and he or she will be able to read them.
Enhancements have included:
48x CD-R write speed
24x CD-RW write/rewrite speed achieved
Mt. Rainier enhancement enables CD-RW media to finally replace the floppy disc as the preferred re-writable media format
Slim and half-height CD-RW drives are readily available that also play DVD videos
a growing number of high-end computers are being offered with
recordable DVD drives, these “video-ready” systems are
not isolated solutions. In fact, according to IDC’s research,
the entire market is shifting to recording. A joint IDC/PC PitStop
study showed that while SOHO and small business have led the CD-RW
movement, businesses are rapidly implementing the technology as well
have made the transition because CD-RW drives help them improve their
product line management by being both a CD-ROM and a floppy drive
CD-R/RW makes sense
for business use because even though organizations work to implement
and enforce network and enterprise-wide backup schemes, personal
system file backup is still important. In addition the ability to
use a bootable CD is extremely appealing as a system recovery tool.
The vast installed CD base ensures future availability and
compatibility. It also dramatically simplifies data file and volume
interchange--both internally and externally.
Today, CDs are used
for a variety of tasks such as catalogs, bank and phone billing,
engineering drawings, 3D modeling, presentations, sales training,
documentation, photo albums, road warrior back-up/recovery,
small-sized database distribution, legal documents and yes, music
Ironically, the media has also found growing use for
personal and business video archiving and distribution. Users have discovered
that the VCD and SVCD formats allow them to store 30 minutes of video on a 700MB
disc that can be played back on most DVD players. Most users agree that 30
minutes of watching a ballet recital, HR training course, wedding/anniversary
video, product presentation or vacation video is more than adequate for personal
or business videos.
ReWriteable CD technology will continue to be a fast, reliable and
economical backup and recovery solution for desktop and portable
systems. In fact, because of the increased security at airports
around the globe, IT and organizational management have begun
stressing the importance of notebook users following sound data
By backing up the
notebook’s OS, applications and system settings (relatively
static data), many business travelers have been relieved to find that
even if the system is damaged or stolen, all is not lost. When they
perform incremental backups of volumes and files every evening, their
mission-critical data can be quickly accessed and their business
activities can continue with minimal disruption.
While DVD recording
will be attractive for high-end consumer PCs, the mid- to low-end
prospects as well as SOHO and business user will continue to find the
less-expensive CD-RW drives and media a cost-effective and versatile
solution for the majority of their storage requirements. Even
consumers who have recordable DVD drives (standalone or included with
their new “video-enabled” systems) can lower their costs
by writing to CD-R/RW media when only 700MB of storage per disc is
Today, people let their applications be their guide in selecting the format they will use. For the majority, that means CD-R/RW technology will be the dominant storage solution for the coming decade and that the reports of the death of CD has, in fact, been exaggerated.
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