Hiroyuki Hasegawa of Panasonic delivering his speech
Hiroyuki Hasegawa of Panasonic delivering his speech
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"From an environmental perspective, Blu-ray and other optical discs are promising for archival purposes."

Hiroyuki Hasegawa, group manager of the Technology Group, Media Business Unit, Devices Business Group at Panasonic Corp's AVC Networks Company, delivered a lecture titled "The Present and Future of Optical Discs" during the seminar "The Current State of Digital Archives and the Roles of Optical Discs" hosted by the Japan Recording-Media Industries Association March 10, 2009.

Hasegawa said Blu-ray and other optical discs are superior to other recording media including HDDs and magnetic tapes in terms of non-contact recording and playback, removability, random accessibility and long product life. In addition, even their capacity and throughput, which are regarded as disadvantages, are not so inferior in terms of cost and unit volume/unit weight, he said.

In addition, optical discs emit less CO2 and require less total cost of ownership (TCO) than other media during the product lifecycle. Therefore, under the current situation where the volume of recorded information is explosively increasing, there are high expectations for their use in archival applications, Hasegawa said.

When used for archival applications, optical discs are inferior to other media in terms of access speed and cost per bit. However, most of the data that are currently being stored in archives are unstructured, and 80% of such unstructured data are fixed data, which are not frequently retrieved, he said.

Therefore, optical discs are suited for the long-term storage of fixed data from an environmental perspective. Not only performance and cost, but also the environment, will be essential benchmarks when evaluating storage media, he said.

Then, Hasegawa explained trends in the optical disc market. Optical discs, which began to rapidly replace magnetic media in 2000, are accounting for the largest portion of the global demand for recording media. In 2008, global demands for CD-R and recordable DVD media were about seven billion and six billion units, respectively.

The peak demand for overall optical discs surpassed 13 billion units. This is much larger than the peak demand for magnetic media such as floppy discs and audiotapes. "Optical disc might be one of the most successful recording media," Hasegawa said.

Demand for optical discs has grown so strong partly due to the fact that they can be used for a wider range of applications compared with magnetic media and the prices of hardware and recording media rapidly dropped, he said.

Demand for Blu-ray and other next-generation optical discs, which are likely to determine the future development of the optical disc industry, started to gradually grow from about 2007 and reached 20 million units in 2008. Although it is possible that the demand will not grow as much as expected due to the economic degradation, Hasegawa predicted that it will exceed 60 million units in 2009 and 250 million units in 2011.

As of 2008, Japan accounted for 80% of the global demand, and "overseas demand is likely to reach the same level as in Japan in 2011," he said.

Demand for the next-generation optical discs expanded in Japan due to the lowering price of a disc, he said. From January 2008 to the same month in 2009, the price of a 25-Gbyte next-generation optical disc dropped to about 1/3.

"It has generally been said that a recording medium or its format does not diffuse before its price declines to 1/100 the hardware price," Hasegawa said. "But, as far as the Japanese market is concerned, it can be said that the next-generation optical discs met this goal in 2008."

However, Blu-ray Disc media are mostly used for recording HDTV programs at the moment. To spread Blu-ray Disc penetration further, it is necessary for other applications to emerge and for Blu-ray Disc recorders to be embraced all over the world, he said.