Even though the makers of the Mouse Computer netbook think a DVD drive is fitting for the 10 inch netbook form factor, most netbook manufacturers have overlooked the disc format. And while many would argue that an optical drive isn’t necessary on the rapidly expanding crop of netbooks given the amount of downloadable and streaming content, Vmedia would argue otherwise. What is Vmedia? Vmedia isn’t touting the optical of yesterday or the Blu-Ray of today. They are talking small discs that measure 36 x 36 mm (think the size of those 1990s pogs). They may look like mini-discs, but they are much, much smaller. See our hands-on shots of the Vmedia discs below in comparison to some other mobile storage solutions. The company is currently working with content providers to provide Vmedia discs with movies preloaded. Currently a Vmedia disc can hold 1GB of data or an entire 576p (720 x 576-pixel) resolution movie. Vmedia disc capacity will increase to 2GB in about a year and will also be two-layer, capable of writing. Playing a Vmedia disc, which is based on the latest blue laser technology, requires a Vmedia optical drive. Integrated Vmedia Devices “We are a mobile medium, so any mobile platform that is good for entertainment is what we are targeting. Netbooks are an excellent platform for us; the screen size is similar to a portable DVD player and with netbooks consumers have an expectation that they can view entertainment on it,” Vmedia’s vice president of marketing, Wendy Volan, said. “Vmedia on a netbook is a great experience and we hope to see it very soon in the marketplace.” Beyond netbooks, Vmedia plans to be integrated in both cell phones and mobile Internet devices (MIDs). They are also working with OEMs to design peripherals such as a USB Vmedia player. The company is “within months” of seeing its partners announce products with integrated drives. Vmedia Disc Distribution In terms of the uptake of Vmedia discs, the company, while not revealing much about their content partners, is planning to have wide distribution. They plan to make the discs available for purchase not only at the same places you see DVDs and Blu-rays being offered, but also through nontraditional outlets where you would be more likely to buy a mobile device. The company expects a Vmedia disc to be in the same price range as other packaged media content, though the pricing is ultimately up to the content providers.
Optical Isn’t Dead? 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,” 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.