Engadget posted yesterday about 1GB write-once memory cards from SanDisk that would cost around $5.99 USD. My first thought was that it would never work. Why buy a memory card you can only use once for $6 when you can buy a rewritable one for as little as say $15? It wouldn’t make sense. But after reading the comments and thinking about it a bit more, it became clear that write-once and rewritable memory cards could serve very different markets, just as CD-R/CD-RW and DVD-R/DVD-RW do today.
For the digital camera user, a write-once memory card doesn’t make much sense, unless it comes as part of a "disposable" camera. Otherwise, you’re likely going to want to stick to a memory card that you can fill up, erase, and fill up again.
For digital media however, write-once memory cards do make sense. Think about albums, movies, and games – they all come on optical media. And as handy as they are, CDs and DVDs are still pretty big as far as technology goes. Each disc is 12 cm across, which means you need a pretty big device in order to read them. Imagine how big your digital camera would be if it saved data on a CD! And yes, I realize there are mini-CDs and DVDs, but they have drastically reduced capacities.
By comparison, an SD card is about 3cm x 2cm. Much, much smaller. They can fit inside all sorts of devices, including phones, cameras, and digital media players. I’d rather have digital media like music, movies, and games come to me via the cloud, but if I have to purchase it in physical form, I’d much rather have a smaller SD card than a relatively large DVD.
Write-once memory cards make the most sense for data archival, however. I’m sure I’m not the only one that burns write-once DVDs as part of my backup regimen. How cool would it be to use tiny little memory cards instead? Rewritable memory cards have already far surpassed the capacity of DVDs, so I imagine that write-once memory cards won’t be far behind. Plus, backing up data to a memory card is faster and less error-prone than burning a disc. And when you’re done? Memory cards take up a lot less room than discs do, so you can store many more of them.
The one advantage that DVDs have over write-once memory cards, of course, is cost. You can buy DVDs for around 35 cents per disc. I don’t expect that advantage will last long. When production of write-once memory cards ramps up and technology improves, the cost will come down dramatically. Okay maybe one more advantage of DVDs is that they are harder to lose, but that depends on how you look at it 🙂
My initial negative impression is long gone – I’m looking forward to write-once memory cards!