HI-MD – Nice Idea But Too Late!

Although cheaper than Flash Memory, the new Sony HD Minidisc still costs around 9 Euro for a Gigabtye…that’s 9 times the price of space on portable hard-drives like Archos AV400Posted by Hello

I have been watching, with some interest, the gradual roll out of the Hi-MD™ Walkman®. First announced at the Consumer Electronic Fair in Las Vegas, back in January 2004, I personally think it is MiniDisc’s last gasp before it disappears. Remember, Sony tried this before, in the days when it was possible to record 8 hours of music onto video tape. People don’t just want storage, they want to be able to FIND stuff easily – so the cataloging software has to be as simple as Apple’s I-tunes.

On the plus side, the new Hi-MD technology enables users to record up to 45 hours of music at up to 100 times transfer speed on one disc, while still enjoying the extensive battery life, compact design and robustness for which MD players are recognized. Removable, re-recordable Hi-MD media provides music lovers with unlimited storage capacity to build an infinite library of their favorite songs. Each 1GB disc can hold up to 45 hours of music heavily compressed at 48 kilobits per second (kbps).

Knowing my personal experience with standard MiniDisc, I am not sure I trust the system to record my entire interview and music collection onto a set of these discs. Will it still be around in 10 years and will there be any players left in the market when mine has broken? I fear not. This is a case of Sony trying to introduce ANOTHER format and I think history will show this one is not going to work.

So, I do make use of Sony’s excellent VideoFactory programme to edit both audio and video. But I can pick up a standard 250 Gig Hard Drive for less than 250 Euros. I don’t need to store it all again on a more expensive and proprietary MiniDisc. Likewise, that ATRAC-3 (Acoustic TRansform Adaptive Coding) compression plays hell with broadcast playout systems using MPEG-2…both systems take depth out of your recordings, except their both take OTHER bits out – leading to a what is termed “cascading”. According to Japanese newa agency reports this week, Sony has FINALLY decided to support MP3s in certain of its future digital music players.

It is amazing to know that, on average, Sony launches two new products EVERY HOUR. I’m sure each of them needs their own separate power supply! They also believe that because they are so big, they can steam ahead with their proprietary standards as opposed to using industry ones. Just recently they launched the first Walkman-branded hard drive player, the NW-HD1. Once again, Sony decided not to support MP3s on the player, opting instead for ATRAC3. Sony claims ATRAC3 offers superior sound at smaller file sizes than MP3s. Yes, but Sony’s BETAMAX was better than VHS, but it didn’t win the battle. Most digital music fans rip their CDs as MP3’s, so it is a hopeless case to force customers to adopt ANOTHER “Only Sony” format. Even Apple’s I-Pod supports MP3s in addition to the AAC compression that Apple has adopted in its I-Tunes Music Store.

But what do you think? Will you go the HD route and pioneer with Sony? Oh, and shall we give Sony the 2004 award for World’s Most Confusing Family of Websites?


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