Digital dozen: Steve Volk


BUSINESS TYPE:Format changer

JOB TITLE:President and CEO

AGE: 47

BIGGEST CHALLENGE:Creating Dataplay and making it a universal media for all things digital

FAVORITE BOOKMARK: www.wired.com

Steve Volk says his plans for the future are to culturally change the experience that the consumer will have.

And he plans to do so in a big way.

Working in his basement in 1998, Volk envisioned a universal media storage device for all things digital. It wasn’t long after that he founded DataPlay, a Boulder, Colo.-based venture that hopes to replace compact discs and DVDs with its own optical disc as the standard for recorded content such as music, movies, vidgames, et al.

Expected to bow toward the end of the year, the quarter-size non-erasable discs can hold up to 500 MB of data — more than 11 hours of music downloads or dozens of vidgames — and be played on various portable digital devices. The discs will retail for $5 and $12 blank.

Competing with Sony’s new memory stick may be tough, but where that company’s storage option only works with Sony-branded devices, DataPlay’s offering is expected to play on any product.

However, DataPlay faces an even bigger obstacle: replacing CDs and DVDs as the content distribution options for consumers. At the very least, DataPlay’s efforts is expected to create an industrywide debate on format options.

And that’s what’s beginning to attract partners and investors. Already, DataPlay has secured $55 million in backing from heavy hitters such as Intel, Kodak, TransWorld Entertainment and Olympus. Other major distribution partners include Universal Music, EMI, Rio, Samsung and Toshiba.

Most recently, Volk was founder, chairman and CEO of Prairie Tek, the introducers of the 2-1/2-inch disk drive and the dominant storage device in today’s notebook computers. Volk later founded Integral Peripherals, a manufacturer of mobile disk drives. Before that, he founded in 1981 TallGrass Technologies, a tape and disk subsystems provider for the first hard drives on PCs.