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A Replacement for Blu-ray Is Coming: Does Anyone Want It?

Sony and Panasonic are jointly developing a new optical disc that holds more data; would debut by the end of 2015

As Hollywood figures out ways to make its DVDs and Blu-rays more attractive to consumers who are gravitating more toward digital platforms for their TV shows and movies, Sony and Panasonic are about to give studios yet another disc to embrace and promote.

The two companies have paired up to jointly develop a next-generation standard for optical discs that will be able to hold at least 300GB of recorded material (a typical Blu-ray disc for a film holds 50GB). Sony and Panasonic hope to release the first version of the discs by the end of 2015.

The new discs are designed for the professional community looking for a new long-term digital data storage solution to archive their materials — and not for the general consumer. It sees its core customer base as studios, TV networks and post production houses, as well as cloud data centers.

But given the trickle-down effect of new technologies as prices eventually fall, it won’t be surprising if Sony and Panasonic eventually try to come up with a way to market their new high-capacity disc format to consumers.

It’s clear that the entertainment industry will need discs that hold more information. That’s especially true as more studios produce movies in the 4K format, and as the video game biz releases two new next-generation consoles this fall that require a lot of data to take the animation featured in the games to a new level. Sony is behind the PlayStation 4. Its PlayStation 3 currently plays games with high-end graphics. The electronics industry is also developing films that display images in the even higher 8K resolution, which will require even more data on discs to play on the screens.

Sony already is promoting Ultra HD movies in the 4K format that require more than 100GB of space on a disc.

Sony and Panasonic will work with the technologies owned by each company to develop the specifications of the new disc standard. Both companies essentially developed Blu-ray and were key in getting the studios to embrace it as the latest standard for home video releases.

The two companies are high on optical discs, given that they are dust- and water-resistant, can withstand temperature and humidity changes when stored, and are compatible with different data formats as they evolve.

Sony had previously commercialized a file-based optical disc archive system in 2012 that houses 12 optical discs within a compact cartridge as a single, high-capacity storage solution. Each disc within the cartridge holds 25GB capacity, offering a total range of storage capacities from 300GB to 1.5TB.

This summer, Panasonic launched its own line of optical disc storage devices that hold 12 100GB optical discs in a single magazine. A maximum of 90 magazines can be stored, providing a total storage capacity of 180TB.

“Both Sony and Panasonic recognized that optical discs will need to accommodate much larger volumes of storage in years to come given the expected future growth in the archive market, and responded by formulating this agreement,” the electronics giants said.

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