By Evan Ackerman
Minidiscs used to be the coolest things ever. The players were tiny and awesome, and technology itself was miles ahead of the CD if for no other reason than most Minidisc players could also record. Plus, the little disc cartridges were pretty slick. A company called Vmedia is trying to convince netbook manufacturers that bite-size optical media is still relevant, and that Vmedia drives are worthwhile additions their computers.
Vmedia discs are similar to Minidiscs in appearance, but they’re actually even smaller, measuring only 36mm x 36mm (Minidiscs are not quite twice that size). They can hold 1 or 2 gigs of data and are optionally rewritable. This is all well and good, but Vmedia’s biggest competitor is probably going to be SD cards, which are smaller, cheaper, faster, more reliable, more reusable, and have significantly higher capacities. Why does Vmedia think they stand a chance? They’ll tell you, after the jump.
So why buy a Vmedia disc over an SD Card with preloaded content, like SanDisk is attempting with music and its slotMusic platform?
“Cost is one advantage of VMedia. We are manufactured the same way as optical discs are,” [Marketing VP Wendy] Volan said. “SD is a fantastic medium, particularly as a recordable medium for your photos, music, and video. But the thing that needs to happen, especially in terms of the SD slot, is the industry must develop a standard.” She explained that many consumers think that if they have an SD Card slot and an SD Card with video, it will play. “We really need to get to a point where you have a player that can play it all. Any Vmedia disc can play back from a Vmedia drive.”
And as for the upsell over downloadable content, “Vmedia is about is customer choice. Right now we are in a time when consumers have a lot of choices in how they can consume media and on the mobile side there are fewer choices. The shift to downloaded video is going to take quite a while, and Vmedia fills that gap right now,” Volan said.
While it’s true that we’re not yet at the point where we have ubiquitous access to streaming media, I think a brand new proprietary format that requires significant hardware integration is not the answer. Yes, it would great to be able to watch movies on my netbook, and yes, I think making netbooks with conventional optical drives isn’t the solution. But I’m not willing to pay a premium for hardware and media that will allow me to do that and not much else, and that will be rendered obsolete as soon as mobile broadband (WiMax or 4G) becomes a reality (I’m bullish on that). In the meantime, I’m willing to either rip my DVDs and stick them on my netbook directly, or just suffer and read a newspaper or something.