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6GB disc spec may be near

A specification for recordable ASMO discs, similar to DVD-RAMs but with a storage capacity of 6GB, could emerge this month.

A specification for recordable advanced storage magneto-optical discs could emerge as early as this month, according to industry observers quoted today by Nikkei's Japan BizTech news service.

Forthcoming ASMO discs, which could reach the market by spring 1998, are expected to be 120mm, the same size as DVD-RAM discs, but have a storage capacity of 6GB. That's more than double the proposed 2.7GB capacity of DVD-RAMs.

Additionally, ASMO drives may be able to play back CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs, though that capability will not be included in the industry specification, BizTech reported.

A specification crucially precedes a manufacturing standard--defined as a majority of the installed base of a product--in that it defines a given product's parameters.

Magneto-optical (MO) discs are based on a phase-change recording method, an older technology that's so far failed to achieve much commercial success in the U.S. Comparatively pricey, they are typically used for purposes of backup storage.

"MO's performance approaches hard drives, but the price points aren't right [for the consumer market]", said Mary Bourdon, senior industry analyst for Dataquest.

Bourdon believes the ASMO specification is more likely to be announced toward the end of October.

The next-generation ASMO specification would debut during a confused sequence in the development of DVD-RAMs. Last month, Sony led a breakaway from an agreed-upon format and announced its plan to create a new recordable DVD storage technology along with Phillips Electronics, Hewlett-Packard, and others. The same week, NEC called attention to its own plan to bring to market next year a storage disc technology that would eclipse the DVD-RAM competition with 5.2GB of storage.

The DVD Forum, a trade group that created the DVD-RAM standard, consists of 10 of the industry's biggest companies. The ASMO trade group working on the magneto-optical standards is substantially the same, including a few more members.