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View Full Version : Let's talk about DataPlay

Jason Dunn
01-24-2001, 04:09 AM
When I was at the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, I saw some very interesting technology, but the one technology that stood out above the others is DataPlay - let me tell you why...<br /><br />DataPlay won "Best of Show" at CES for their technology - they use very small MO (Magneto Optical) disks that hold 500 megs of data (250 megs per side from what I understand). The discs are $10 a pop, and are write-once much like a CD/R. They are on track to hit 3 gigs by 2003, and by all accounts they're going to be much more successful than any other removable storage "standard" to hit recently. <br /><br />I'm usually very leery about new memory formats - I find it incredibly frustrating as a consumer to have different digital devices (PDA, camera, etc.) that can't all share memory card formats. When I spent a wad of cash on a 128 meg CompactFlash card for MP3's a year ago, I wanted it to also work in my digital camera. The DataPlay technology shows promise in this area because they're partnering with many different companies, on everything from MP3 players to digital cameras to portable GameBoy-like devices. The end goal is to have content that can be moved from device to device. Heck, at $10 a pop I might just build up my MP3 music collection using DataPlay discs rather than hard drives. The DataPlay discs are a lot smaller. :-)<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/articles/jasondunn-dataplay-1.jpg" /><br /><br />They have some fantastic OEM partners lined up already (like Toshiba). There were several prototype devices (MP3 players, PDA's, etc.) at CES 2001. I asked the Toshiba rep if they were planning on using DataPlay technology in their new Pocket PC, and while he said they were looking at it, he didn't know if they'd use it. Can you imagine a Toshiba Pocket PC running on a 400 mhz XScale processor, using the new Toshiba MPEG4 video decoder chip, and having a 500 meg data source for video files?<br /><br /><b><span>The Pocket PC Connection</span></b><br />When I was at their booth (perhaps "pavilion" might be a better term) there was a company lined up to make a DataPlay add-on for Palm and Handspring devices, but not for the Pocket PC. You wouldn't believe how ugly the add-on for the Handspring was! It's a huge hump on the back of the device, and incorporates an extra set of batteries because the Handspring has such weak battery output. Palmax/UR There has signed up as a DataPlay partner, and have committed to incorporating DataPlay technology into their line of Pocket PC's. Considering the size of the read/write unit, this is going to be quite a challenge - if they can find a way to shrink it down, the Palmax Pocket PC would be a fantastic data recording &amp; playback device!<br /><br />Of the current "big three" OEM's, only Compaq can pull this off in the next year if they want to. With the iPAQ sleeve technology, they're in the lead for being able to easily make a reader for the Pocket PC. Will they do it? Who knows - but if they listen to me, we'll see one soon. ;-)<br /><br /><b><span>Still Not Convinced? </span></b><br />Consider battery life - the Microdrive chews up a fully-charged iPAQ in about 3 hours according to my tests. The DataPlay drives have a 2 to 4 meg buffer in the reader, and a 1 megabyte (not 1 megabit) data transfer rate, which means the drive spins up for 3-4 seconds, transfers an entire song to the buffer, then spins down and sleeps. Bottom line? Major battery life improvements without needing software-side coding to do data caching (which we still haven't seen on a Pocket PC audio player). This is a big deal in the eyes of many consumers, myself included. I'm confident we'd see 5-6 hours of audio playback on a DataPlay-equipped Pocket PC!<br /><br />And if you need more convincing, consider this: DRM issues with eBooks and music are sometimes a nightmare - the two license limit ticks off a lot of customers. I doubt I'll ever purchase "commercial" eBooks that use this level of DRM. <br /><br />But what if the license was tied to the media? DataPlay has lined up mainstream music and eBooks for distribution on DataPlay discs - you buy the eBook package and you get the book, a video interview with the author, etc. And best of all, because the license is tied to the media (and encrypted), you can loan it to your friend, sell it on eBay, whatever - and only one instance of that content is ever active. It keeps the publishers happy, and keeps the customers happy. The DataPlay disc becomes just like a paperback book or audio CD - it's a physical object that can't be easily pirated or duplicated.<br /><br /><b><span>My Final Thought... </span></b><br />If you think the "write once" is a significant drawback, consider this: if you have a 1 gig Microdrive, once you load it up with content and leave on a trip, how often do you write more data to it? When I looked at my own use patterns, I realized that I only loaded it up from my desktop PC and didn't modify the contents on it for a few months. With 120+ songs, I found I didn't need to load up new ones for quite some time. At only $10 a pop, DataPlay seems to be the answer I've been looking for.<br /><br />BrightHand also has an article about this topic, and the official DataPlay site has some good info on the device and it's possibilities.<br /><br />So let's hear it for DataPlay!