CD Futures

CD Futures

Opinions of Katherine Cochrane
September 1995


CD-Recordable (CD-R) will continue to be of growing importance, especially with the lower-cost recorders being sold now, and with the growth in the understanding of the technology. CD-R could well replace tape as the backup method of choice, at least among those who only do backups every once in a while instead of every day. Media costs and the un-rewritable aspect of CD-R may deter some from using it on a frequent basis, but the convenience and reliability will be considered incentive enough for many to use CD-R exclusively. For those who do daily or frequent backups, multisession recording and some of the newer incremental backup applications will be very attractive random-access alternatives to serial-access, slow, frequently unreliable tape.

Data & Software Distribution

The cross-platform, large capacity format of CD-ROM will continue to play a role in its use as a distribution tool for data and applications, both as CD-R for small distributions and CD-ROM for large ones.

Format Changes

Serious video applications will probably wait for the high density wars to settle out, but by Christmas '96 there will be players available, and discs on the shelves. However, the "traditional" 650MB discs will remain in use for business and many home applications. The large installed market base together with the technical difficulties of recording the higher density format, as well as the fact that there aren't that many applications currently that require even as much disc space as the current format allows will keep it active in parallel with the new stuff. The high density format will be much like the present "set-top" formats (CD-i, CD-ROM XA, 3DO, etc.) -- there will be pockets of applications, but not across-the-board acceptance. The entertainment market is the most important to the developers of this format, but there are some significant business applications, too, particularly in the area of very large database applications. It's awkward to split databases across discs, so the people who have these are contstantly demanding bigger and bigger capacity.

Archiving & Image Databases

Prices on digital cameras and scanners are coming down, too, and the files they produce are large. While hard disk drives are getting cheaper, they are also still being filled up by ever-growing operating systems and applications. CD-R is still a cheaper and more convenient solution to data storage than a shelf full of SCSI hard disks, and will continue to be the distribution method of choice for software makers for the foreseeable future. It's actually cheaper to make and distribute a CD than two floppy diskettes if the quantities are even in the low thousands.

Online vs Optical

Many people assume that the internet is going to replace CD-ROM as a distribution method. Obviously they have never tried to up/download 650 MB at one time. Even at very fast data rates, CD is much more practical, and once the data is transferred, it's got to go somewhere! But you'll also start seeing many more "mingled media" applications -- discs that have dial-up programs on them to download updates or access dynamic data. The applications or large static data sets can be distributed cheaply on CD, and just have the changes online.


As for untouched areas, it's more a question of getting the technology into the hands of more users rather than new applications (although "visionaries" who make this kind of statement are usually proved wrong.) Many of the possible applications have been tried successfully on a small scale, but just have not filtered down to the masses yet. Don't forget, CD-ROM is only 10 years in the commercial marketplace, and CD-R on the desktop for under $10,000 USD has been available for less than 4 years. The market penetration has just begun!

Web this site