As we had reported back in July of last year, Sony and Panasonic had set out to develop 300 GB+ size optical discs that would enable high-definition video formats for professionals and professional applications. While this work had continued very quietly in the background of all the 4K announcements last year and early this year, they have finally come out with a roadmap a name and a fairly concrete set of specifications. Albeit, the roadmap itself doesn’t really give us much of a timeframe of when to expect each of these milestones to occur.
So, yes, Sony and Panasonic have announced a new standard by the name of Archival Disc, which is a very dry and professional-sounding format name. I would expect for there to be a consumerized version of this format to land shortly after the professional version probably under the Blu-Ray or similar name. The current expectation is that this format will initially support 300 GB, followed by 500 GB and finally 1 TB per disc, each of these improvements will require a new technological hurdle to be passed in order to occur. Similar to some of the technological limitations that prevented certain hard disk drives from reaching certain capacities. Sure, we’re at 6 TB per Hard Drive, but each drive has a certain number of spinning disks inside that amount to 6 TB.
We also don’t quite know what the time frame is going to be for this roadmap, but we can expect it to take quite some time from step to step, in matters of years. The only date that we have is that the 300GB format is expected to be launched in the summer of 2015, which is more than a year away from now. But this format likely does have quite a future for it as many data centers and others looking to archive data look to replace tape drives and big expensive spinning disks that consume power. After all, this format is write-once which should make the technology much more archive friendly and serve as a good backup for a backup kind of system.
The truth, though, is that optical discs are not really going to be used very much by consumers for many purposes especially when you consider how much movement there has been towards downloadable and streamable content. I’m not sure Archival Disc will see much consumer adoption for this, but I do believe that it could have a fairly short lifespan as a consumer standard until ISPs, download speeds, and codecs become efficient enough that streaming is easy to accomplish across all networks and devices. But until that happens, optical discs are simply the best option since right now most 4K content is played off of a hard drive either on an external drive or as part of a person’s computer.