Three-dimensional data storage has been a dream since the early 1960s, but GE (NYSE: GE) thinks it's the company to finally make the technology realize its promise.
GE Global Research, GE's technology development arm, announced yesterday that it has developed a holographic storage material that can support 500 gigabytes of data storage capacity in a standard DVD-sized disc.
The company says it will take a few years to commercialize the technology, but it envisions consumers someday using it to store 3-D TV and other high-resolution formats.
"GE's breakthrough is a huge step toward bringing our next-generation holographic storage technology to the everyday consumer," Brian Lawrence, head of GE's Holographic Storage program, said in a statement.
For now, GE says it is targeting the archival storage market, and is in talks with "multiple partners" to manufacture and bring to market drives, media and players based on the technology.
Polaroid scientist Pieter J. Van Heerden is credited with the idea of storing data in three dimensions, which he came up with in 1963. InPhase Technologies, a spin-off of Bell Labs, has been working on the technology for 15 years, and said at CES earlier this year that it plans to ship 300GB holographic drives with 20 MB/second data transfer rates this year.
GE says its holographic storage hardware and formats "are so similar to current optical storage technology that the micro-holographic players will enable consumers to play back their CDs, DVDs and BDs." The company has been developing the technology for more than six years, and sees the capacity reaching more than a terabyte on a single disc.
But Taneja Group analyst Jeff Boles is skeptical of GE's chances of success.
"It will certainly take a powerhouse of a company as big as GE to introduce yet another competing optical disc format in the midst of so many competing form factors, and after the sour taste that the HD-DVD and Blue-ray battles have left in so many consumer mouths," said Boles.
"Frankly, to guarantee success in market entry with optical media, given the rapid commoditization of the media, the obstacle of consumer adoption has to be a top concern, irrespective of how much opportunity a company thinks there is in enterprise-type markets," Boles said. "We see companies like Call/Recall with real innovations in this space, but unable to get to the point of broad adoption because of their limited ability to make media and drives ubiquitous. But GE may be one of those companies that can introduce such a new media. Kudos to them on the micro-holography techniques, and the potential they have for making a real product out of it."
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