CES Enough Hype for iVDR?

While the hype of Las Vegas fits CES perfectly, David Morgenstern examines whether it's enough to save a new removable-storage format.

Theres more than enough glitz and camp glamour in Las Vegas to perk up any technology show, as if the yearly Consumer Electronics Show needed any help. The consumer segment is one of the few bright spots in the industry. However, I wonder if even the requisite CES sass will be able to spice up the premiere of a new removable storage format.

"What, another removable format?" would be on the minds of longtime observers of the storage industry.

Still, the public demonstration of the iVDR (Information Versatile Disk for Removable usage), -- coming from a consortium of Japanese companies, including Canon, Fujitsu, Hitachi, JVC, Pioneer, Sanyo and Sharp -- may hold a surprise for the CES audience. Instead of presenting consumers with a new removable media based on optical technology, the forthcoming iVDR media is based on removable hard disks. Drive manufacturers Maxtor and Seagate have joined the iVDR party.

The consortium will show three iVDR drives: a 2.5-inch disk with a parallel ATA interface, and 2.5- and 1.8-inch drives with a serial ATA interface.

In bygone days, computer trade shows featured pitched battles between camps representing various high-capacity, removable-media formats, such as Iomega (remember the Bernoulli floptical), SyQuest Technology (removable hard drive cartridges) and Japanese vendors offering different flavors of optical and magneto-optical technologies. Some of the drives were faster than others, some media was more durable, some formats were more and less proprietary, and some offered better backwards compatibility.

The resulting marketing also provided some drama, unusual for most trade shows. Some classic demonstrations featured the reading and writing of data while the drive was shaking in a modified paint mixer. In competing booths, vendors tossed their cartridges across the stage (or challenged attendees to do likewise) and then booted files from the disk.

And only some of these companies are still in business.

Meanwhile, as I mentioned in last weeks column, the Japanese vendors are now solidly in the hard disk camp. The iVDR demonstrations will be held in Hitachi Global Storage Technologies booth -- a name not usually associated with consumer electronics.

The consortiums pitch list points to uses for the drives in consumer devices other than computers, such as televisions, home stereos and cars. Of course, the primary pitch must be the digital video recorder, even though a spokesman admits that ordinary consumers may balk at the initial media price: from $150 to $250.

Heres an easy prediction: the consortium will need to spend considerable dough for a better name. Information Versatile Disk for Removable usage just doesnt cut it, especially for consumers -- its a name that could only have been created by committee in Japan. Its truly terrible.

My beef with the name is two-fold. Although the word "usage" would be better left to the grammar textbooks, it seems less than fair to leave it out of the acronym. Can they even do that? Is it legal to drop a letter of a legitimate word? And besides, Ive always had trouble with "versatile," which replaced "video" in Digital Video Disc long ago.

Any suggestions? Send them to me and I will pass them on to the consortium.

David Morgenstern is a longtime watcher of the storage industry as well as a veteran of the dotcom boom in the storage-rich fields of professional content creation and digital video.