Blu-Ray: Next Generation Optical Storage Medium


Higher capacity doesn't guarantee it a secure market victory.

Blu-Ray is Sony/Phillips entry into next-generation optical storage mediums. This disc technology, along with what is gearing up to be its primary competition HD DVD, use blue lasers instead of red lasers used by conventional DVD. The blue laser has a tighter beam and literally allows it to read data from discs packed with substantially greater data. The 405nm wavelength of the blue laser is significantly shorter than red laser's 650nm. This translates into the laser being able to pick up more densely packed data writing to the same sized disc.

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The effect of the Blu-Ray's implementation is that it can read 22 Gigabytes of data stored on one of its optical discs compared to DVD's 6 Gigs of data. Blu-Ray is not the only blue laser optical storage format - the nearest competitor is HD DVD, which was also developed to improve upon the storage limitation of the conventional DVD disc. But in the contest of technical superiority, Blu-Ray has it. HD DVD has the capacity to hold 17 Gigabytes of data, making it fall just short of Blu-Ray.

As high-definition video and multi-channel audio systems advanced it was recognized that the DVD standard falls short. Designed for no more than video at NTSC resolutions, even progressive scan DVD falls short of the potential as a true HD storage medium. New high-capacity optical storage mediums have been in development for years to answer this call. From a technical standpoint both leading competitors for high definition video more than fulfill the requirement. A single Blu-Ray disc (BD) can fit up to 27 Gigabytes of data, which is enough for four hours of high-definition video with multi-channel audio. The double density variety of the Blu-Ray disc can hold a staggering 54 Gigabytes of storage - that's enough for over eight hours of high definition video and accompanying multi-channel audio. Version 2.0 became available in some parts of the world as early as 2004 and includes Blu-Ray Rewritable (BD-RE) and Blu-Ray recordable (BDR). As a rewritable storage medium for PC this has significant application for backups. But the technology has been produced to be scalable, meaning in the future layers can be added to the Blu-Ray discs allowing them to swell to capacities up to 200GB per disc.

Blu-Ray has clear benefits as both a storage medium specifically for PC and for consumer electronics entertainment. The format's technical superiority over the HD DVD is no guarantee it will win the impending format war, however. Seldom is technical superiority the key ingredient to industry-wide adoption and popularity of a format. Sony/Philips have their work cut out for them winning over the industry in this war against virtually every other consumer electronics firm. In fact, as a home entertainment medium it seems HD DVD is slightly ahead, having already garnered commitments from some movie studios to release HD DVD versions of their films early 2006.