CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW: CNET editors cover the Next Big Thing
CES wrap-up: storage and burners: storage surprises
By Felisa Yang
(January 11, 2005)
As a category at CES, storage is going all fuzzy. Once the realm of PCs and laptops, storage is popping up all over the place, from devices that stream audio/video content to multiple devices in your home to PDAs and MP3 players that double as USB flash drives for data transport. In fact, we had some trouble deciding how to classify certain devices because more of them are boasting gargantuan capacities.
Speaking of gargantuan capacities, we did see something that we weren't expecting (though with power of hindsight, we can now say "duh"): a couple of companies, namely Buffalo and LaCie, showed terabyte storage centers--for the home. Yep, that's four 250GB drives roped together, capable of RAID 5 backup. We're always preaching the difference between storage and backup around here, but these data camels do both. Until recently, this kind of capacity seemed unnecessary for home use, but with high-definition video fast on its way, it'll be all too soon before we start daisy-chaining terabyte drives.
CD/DVD burners are ramping up in read/write speeds, rather predictably, and double-layer burners are steadily rolling into retail channels. HP demonstrated its new LightScribe technology, but it has a six-month exclusive deal on the technology before other companies can start licensing it. Our concern is whether LightScribe will catch on with consumers. As burn times dwindle further, will consumers be willing to wait 20-plus minutes for the drive to burn an image on the disc, especially when some inkjet and thermal printers can print the disc in less than 2 minutes?
Though everyone wanted to talk about blue laser, actual consumer devices with that tech were hard to find. The HD-DVD Forum had prototype devices on display (mostly DVD players and DVR-with-burner boxes), and members eagerly waved their "End of 2005" flags, but members of the Blu-ray faction were more cautious, citing Hollywood studios as a major factor in how this race ends. Producers of blank media are ready to move in either direction (or both) and are just waiting for the go signal.
Surprisingly enough, some of the biggest storage news of the week centered around USB flash drives. Lexar announced its first product based on the USB Card form factor: the USB FlashCard, which is a tiny USB flash drive. It has the width and thickness of a USB type A connector, and the body is just about twice as long as the connector. Lexar hopes this form factor will help create universal interoperability between PCs and personal digital devices such as digital still cameras and PDAs. The company is currently working with manufacturers of these products to create a connector that would house the card. This could potentially eliminate the multitude of memory card types and readers and consolidate all flash memory in the USB format, which is gaining huge popularity in the form of thumbdrives. SanDisk, who holds the royalty rights to the SD card (one of those threatened flash cards), answered the challenge with its own announcement: it has added USB capability to its SD cards. Basically, the SD card folds right in half, exposing its USB connector, which is only as thick as the SD card (that is to say, not very). This can plug right into a USB port, and while this move seems to cannibalize SanDisk's own share of the card-reader market, it's a smart move to maintain its SD card market. Actual product announcements are expected to come in February.
All in all, an interesting, though mostly unsurprising CES with regards to storage and burners. Keep on waiting for blue-laser products but also keep an eye on what's going on in flash storage.
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