Optical discs like the CD, DVD and Blu-Ray may be considered passé in the age of flash memory or cloud storage and the ubiquity of portable devices like iPads. But they still earn their keep in the consumer and business space as an affordable medium for exchanging or archiving data.
For example, they are still being used for distributing music, movies and games in a manner that appeals to consumers who want to maintain a collection of this content or buy it as a gift to give other people. As well, these discs may appeal as a cost-effective form for creating long-term archival copies of data or to distribute data to a large number of users in a form that can be handed over to the users. The disadvantage of slow access may not be of concern with data that one accesses on an occasional basis or is never changing.
Hence Sony and Panasonic have worked together on a 300Gb optical disc standard that they intend to be the successor to Blu-Ray.
For Sony, they want to see this format as a “pressable” optical disc format for distributing 4K UHDTV content especially to movie-collecting consumers. In some cases, this same format may make it easier for companies to sell larger collections of content in a compact cost-effective form, whether it be a series of movies or PDF renderings of a classic magazine’s back issues. Similarly, as sophisticated “core” games are optimised for the 4K UHDTV and are pitched at consoles, this next-generation optical disc could be used as a distribution media for these games. This would be more so with the “epic” titles like the Final Fantasy saga which has often been used as a “showcase” game for the PlayStation consoles.
The other main application will be long-term “archival” storage of data, where flash storage or regular magnetic hard disks won’t cut it for safe cost-effective storage. In this situation, the optical disks can effectively “free up” capacity on the hard disks or flash memory and, in a lot of cases, provide the “write once, read many” storage where the data cannot be altered once it is written. This latter option will effectively appeal to legal and regulatory requirements where the goal is to keep unaltered copies of key data.
What I see of the Sony and Panasonic effort is to keep the optical disc alive as a medium for long-term storage or cost-effective “collectable” distribution of content.