Goodbye optical discs, hello write-once memory cards!

Post Image 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!

Read: Engadget

Why are blank CDs so expensive?

Post ImageI never thought I’d write something like this, but blank CDs are freaking expensive! It wasn’t long ago that I could care less about turning a CD into a coaster, but now I do care. I don’t know what changed, but for some reason CDs have become incredibly expensive relative to DVDs.

Here is the current pricing at Futureshop.ca for a brand I quite like:

More than double the price! And it’s not just Maxell either:

It’s ridiculous! Heck, you can get a 50 pack of Memorex Dual Layer DVD+Rs for only $59.99. I suppose I should point out that both the Maxell DVD and Memorex Dual Layer DVD prices are after an instant rebate, but don’t be fooled – that spindle of 100 Maxell DVDs has been $32.99 for at least six months. That’s for both DVD-R and DVD+R. This isn’t specific to Futureshop either…I’ve noticed the same trend at all computer stores here in Edmonton.

I’m obviously not an expert on this topic, but aren’t CDs and DVDs made from pretty much the same stuff? The main difference between the two seems to be the wavelength of the laser that is used, not anything with the physical discs themselves. Even if there are some differences, surely CDs shouldn’t be twice as expensive as DVDs to manufacture!

You might be thinking that this isn’t a big deal – DVDs store more data anyway. That’s entirely accurate. In fact, I really only use CDs for two reasons: burning audio CDs for my car, and burning CD images. Still, the price shocks me.

Perhaps the high price of CDs is just a reflection of marketplace pressures? These days, almost everyone has a portable media player (like an iPod) and almost all new cars have an auxiliary jack (including mine), so there’s less of a need to burn audio CDs. And on the data side, DVDs are just far more useful due to their larger capacity. All new computers come with a drive that will burn both DVDs and CDs, so it’s easy to pick DVDs over CDs.

Are CDs dead?

I don’t think CDs will be disappearing any time soon, but I do think they are on the way out. Newer technologies like DVD, HD-DVD, and Blu-ray have made the CD seem ancient and have certainly reduced its usefulness. And I think it’s safe to say that the CD will be the last physical media form the music industry will ever sell. Digital tracks over the web is the way of the future.

So long compact disc…it was nice knowing you!

The extinction of the CD

When’s the last time you played music with from a CD? I don’t remember the last time, to be honest. I play music from my computer almost 24/7, and when I’m out and about, I’ve either had my iPod or my Zen Touch. The concept of a disc that only holds 20 songs seems so foreign to me now! And even if I have used a CD more recently than I can remember (perhaps in a friend’s car), I know for certain the last time I bought a CD for myself was eons ago. Any music I have bought recently has been purchased online.

I don’t think I am alone. There’s probably tons of other people who also never buy CDs anymore. Digital is the way to go, and so we are, but there are many problems that still exist. Mark Cuban has written an excellent piece on the topic, and offers advice on what the music industry needs to do:

MP3 players are changing peoples listening habits. We don’t carry folders filled with CDs anymore. We carry our library in our MP3 players. We don’t listen to CDs. We listen to playlists that we adjust all the time. We don’t burn CDs anymore, it’s too time consuming. We copy all our music to our MP3 players so it’s all available at our fingertips.

All of our music in a single device. Available to us wherever we are, for whenever we want it. Music how we want it, when we want it. Easy and breezy. That’s how we want to consume music.

That’s not how we are being sold music.

Makes you wonder what will happen to outlets like HMV, who sell hardly anything besides CDs. Why haven’t they done anything to move into the digital space yet? Or even WalMart or other retailers for that matter. What’s taking so long?

Read: Blog Maverick