Editorial - State of the Portable Storage Market

Started May 26, 2004 | Discussions
LeeLove
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Editorial - State of the Portable Storage Market
May 26, 2004

wbee's post about the Nikon Coowalker caused me to put down some thoughts about the current PSD market.

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1023&message=8856442

Is it just me or does $700 for a PSD seem ridiculous ? What is Nikon thinking ?

$700 is BIG premium just for handheld portability. For $200 or $300 more you can buy a real laptop. Now granted you can't easily throw this in your bag but give me a break.

How can a company make a 15" laptop with a 40gig drive including paying the PC Tax to Microsoft, a 3-5 hour battery, USB, Ethernet, DVD/CDRW, etc for $900 and Nikon (and everyone else) can't sell a portable storage device with a 2.5" screen for $200 ?

Something is wrong with this picture (no-pun intended) and I can't believe the market research shows that at $700 the market is that big.

Also there is just not that much engineering that goes into one of these things. A device like this at a minimum only has to do 3 things really well:

1. Copy Files
2. Track Disk Space
3. Preview Images

How hard could this be ?

I admit it, I don't get it. I know you guys have heard me say this before but I will keep repeating it. Why is it I can buy a portable DVD player with a 7" screen and 3 hour battery life for $199 and I can't buy a portable storage device for the same price ?

From everything I can see the current line of PSD's are all a compromise. The functionality is limited at best and they all seem to be half baked products that are struggling to find a niche market. Some have stretched the capability to include MP3 and video playback in order to appeal to a broader audience but it appears this generally puts two mediocre features into one box instead of focusing on doing one thing really well.

So now that I have got that off my chest here are some constructive comments on what a PSD should have in order to be truly successful.

In order of importance.

1. Reliability, Reliability, Reliability

We are not talking about storing a bunch of bootleg MP3's. Most of us have spent $1000'ss of dollars cameras, lenses and other gear in order to capture these images. This does not include the $1000 that sometimes it cost to get to and from where you are going to shoot these images.

So after all of this expense what do we do ? We shove our precious images into a slot and watch flashing lights or animated icons as they suck all of our hard work into a black box.

Above all a PSD must be reliable.

2. Rugged

Shouldn't a PSD look like a tank ?

This is one of the reasons why I can't understand why these cute little boxes are not rubberized ! What the heck to do I care if it has some shiny brushed aluminum case. I want this thing to look like a HUMMER not a BMW !!!! I might pay $700 if the case on a PSD was made out of solid billeted aluminum and looked like it could stop a .45 at 25 yards.

3. Made for Digital Photography

This is one area where Nikon or the Delkin eFilm or who ever makes the thing might have a leg up. These devices actually read RAW formats and display Histograms. Wow what a concept !!!

Now there maybe some disagreement on this point but personally I don't want or care if my PSD can store mp3s, video or any thing else other than RAW and JPG images. If it means the price will be more reasonable and I can actually get features that I would use like a screen or histograms then that is what I want.

Now don't get me wrong I love gadgets and maybe its an age thing but right now PSD's remind me of cell phones. I DON'T WANT TO TAKE PICTURES/VIDEO WITH MY CELLPHONE I JUST WANT RELIABLE VOICE COMMUNICATIONS !!!. whew sorry about shouting. Now that I have that over my phone when I can keep a reliable voice conversation from one end of town to the other. What's up with that ?

So all I want is a real portable storage device that does what it says it will do (every time) and has a few basic photography orient features.

4. Value per Dollar

These things do not have be dirt cheap but they have to at least offer comparable value to similar types of technology. I think my examples of the cost of laptops and portable DVD players are equal technologies but unequal pricing.

Let's Think Outside the Box WISH LIST

I think most photographers needs are pretty basic but if I wanted to get wild with a few ideas. How about this for hair brain ideas ...

  • Wireless camera to PSD

I know the Nikon D2H has WiFi so how about extending that to a PSD. Wouldn't it be nice if the camera sensed no activity for 30 sec and started transmitting your images to your PSD ?

  • Raid PSD's

How about the ability to plug two devices together and by putting a CF into one readers it copies/mirrors the images on two PSD's at the same time. At $200 each (which is what they should be) you could afford two PSD's. Once again focusing on reliability or if you were shooting for publication you could send them the secondary PSD and you would still have a mirror copy.

I could come up with a few more wild ideas but how about you, what do you think the future should hold for a PSD ?

The bottom line in my opinion is the Digital Photography market is huge and getting bigger every day. The potential market for a reliable, low cost portable storage device is at least as big as the market dslr's. If you own a dslr you or more than likely a potential customer of a PSD.

Right now there are dozens of little guys trying to feed around the edges of this market with niche products. There were be dozens more who get into this market before it starts to consolidate and the real players rise to the surface. I suggest it will take companies like Sony, Toshiba or another large player who has not even entered the market yet to make the product described above a reality.

Lee

Monica
Junior MemberPosts: 39
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Hear, hear, with a few exceptions
In reply to LeeLove, May 26, 2004

I couldn't agree more, except with contention #3, which in its full glory wants these devices just for photos.

Video recording is a huge bonus of digital cameras, for me at any rate. As long as a PSD can recognize, store, and playback the multiple formats common among most digital cameras (.JPG, RAW, .AVI, .MPEG, .WAV), then count me in.

A strongly-held conviction on connectivity issues: there's no reason these things shouldn't have a decent on-board display as well as being NTSC/PAL compatible for TV viewing.

I was on the tippy-toe verge of splurging on a FlashTrax not to long ago, but the price vs. features seemed to me to be the prohibitive factor, and I chickened out on the purchase. I just want what LeeLove wants, too, and I think manufacturers are missing out on a huge market of digital camera enthusiasts by trying to offer PSDs that are the equivalent of a four-corkscrew Swiss Army knife.

Monica

LeeLove wrote:

Is it just me or does $700 for a PSD seem ridiculous ? What is
Nikon thinking ?

So now that I have got that off my chest here are some constructive
comments on what a PSD should have in order to be truly successful.

In order of importance.

1. Reliability, Reliability, Reliability
2. Rugged
3. Made for Digital Photography
4. Value per Dollar

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Ambers
Forum MemberPosts: 78
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Re: Hear, hear, Full support
In reply to Monica, May 26, 2004

Full and total support - I am currently working in KL and spent the last 12 months in Korea (the home of the chip). I can buy all the bits cheaply - all I want is them in one box at a reasonable price. Portable hardrives are everywhere and very reasonably priced as are phone, calulator, minie PC of every description and size in these markets - just no wires running between them.

Monica wrote:
I couldn't agree more, except with contention #3, which in its full
glory wants these devices just for photos.

Video recording is a huge bonus of digital cameras, for me at any
rate. As long as a PSD can recognize, store, and playback the
multiple formats common among most digital cameras (.JPG, RAW,
.AVI, .MPEG, .WAV), then count me in.

A strongly-held conviction on connectivity issues: there's no
reason these things shouldn't have a decent on-board display as
well as being NTSC/PAL compatible for TV viewing.

I was on the tippy-toe verge of splurging on a FlashTrax not to
long ago, but the price vs. features seemed to me to be the
prohibitive factor, and I chickened out on the purchase. I just
want what LeeLove wants, too, and I think manufacturers are missing
out on a huge market of digital camera enthusiasts by trying to
offer PSDs that are the equivalent of a four-corkscrew Swiss Army
knife.

Monica

LeeLove wrote:

Is it just me or does $700 for a PSD seem ridiculous ? What is
Nikon thinking ?

So now that I have got that off my chest here are some constructive
comments on what a PSD should have in order to be truly successful.

In order of importance.

1. Reliability, Reliability, Reliability
2. Rugged
3. Made for Digital Photography
4. Value per Dollar

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Kobayashi
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Re: Editorial - State of the Portable Storage Market
In reply to LeeLove, May 26, 2004

1. Reliability, Reliability, Reliability
2. Rugged
3. Made for Digital Photography
4. Value per Dollar

I totally agree! And there's no portable storage device that really fits my needs...
Therefor i'm buying a 12" iBook.

Think about it:

  • Apple is a serious company that won't dissapear in the near future; lot's of retail shops and most of all: worldwide warranty service for portables!

  • Previews on a 12" screen and visual confirmation that your files are indeed on the harddisk before you format your cards.

  • Up to 60GB of harddisk space

  • Backups with the internal CD or DVD writer

  • Small form-factor and good built-quality

  • Editing your photographs on the road

It's not as ultra-portable as other devices and may not suit everybody's needs, but at $1000 I'm sold!

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21st Hermit
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I Paid $674 for my Laptop
In reply to LeeLove, May 26, 2004

I Paid $674 for my Laptop, includes all the features you mention. I've found the laptop so functional, I've sold my desktop and have a number of USB 2.0 devices to supplement.

The answer to your root cost question is volume, Laptop sales for 2003 nudged 40 million units. I'd be surprised if PSD sales hit 400K units. That's two-orders of magnitude difference.

LeeLove wrote:
How can a company make a 15" laptop with a 40gig drive including
paying the PC Tax to Microsoft, a 3-5 hour battery, USB, Ethernet,
DVD/CDRW, etc for $900 and Nikon (and everyone else) can't sell a
portable storage device with a 2.5" screen for $200 ?

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Lost in the Colorado Mountains!!!

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delic
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Seriously!!!! nt
In reply to LeeLove, May 26, 2004

Lee

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Scott Goosman
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FYI
In reply to LeeLove, May 26, 2004

That 659 price is in candian dollars. Thats translates into 480 US which happens to be close to the price of a Flashtrax and other similar products.

Furthermore, Nikonians will pay a premium just to be able to view nef files which is what Nikon is counting on! Course from my perspective, I've never understood the need/desire to view images on one of these devices!

Scott

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http://www.pbase.com/sjhugoose

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WINGnutsDAD
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also seems to be a shortage - try to find a 40GIG FLASHTRAX.
In reply to LeeLove, May 26, 2004
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JLC
MyWorld Studios - Madison,MS

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Lorac
Regular MemberPosts: 169
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No kidding!
In reply to LeeLove, May 26, 2004

I just got a 20 GB Flashtrax for $400 and I can't believe the simplicity of that device when compared to all the capabilities and features of my Canon S1 which only cost $500. In terms of electronics, case build, lense elements, display/viewers and hundreds of settings, features and menus how can a Flashtrax sell for the same price as a good mid-range digital camera???

Guess the joke is on me, since I bought it anyway.

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Joseph
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Because there is no market for it...
In reply to LeeLove, May 26, 2004

... not until recently that regular Joe and Jill can get high resolution digital P&S's and DSLRs with aforedable price tag. When you can get a 512MB for cheap and you only has a 3 megapixels model why do you want to spend a lot on a portable harddrive from a low volumn non-name-brand company? Not everyone is like us in these forums Also, 2.5" harddrive is not exactly cheap not until recently.

Sony is getting into this business now. I guess this is because of their 717 and 828 users demand something like that. I guess you will see prices starting to drop when the serious Korean players like Samsung, LG, etc. and the high volumn Chinese electronics makers get into the market with their offering.

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Cipher
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Profit margins play a role...
In reply to LeeLove, May 26, 2004

These companies invest minimal R&D into these products which would account for the horror stories of people losing all their data. The profit margin on these devices must also be considerable for them. Perhaps now that Sony has come out with their own device, maybe we actually have something reliable. I would also like to see Microsoft come out with a PSD. They have enough R&D money to come out with a reliable product also and probably with a much more reasonable price.

Here's what I'd like to see. A PSD that includes an internal hard drive AND a CD\DVD burner that's reliable!!!!

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ajay kumar
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They charge an arm and a leg...
In reply to Joseph, May 26, 2004

.. because we, as a community of photographers pay for it!!
Not that we have a choice.
Lets face it Photograhy is an EXPENSIVE hobby.
The more serious you get.. the more yo need to spend.

The PSD companies too want to ride the wave and make a fast buck out of us hapless souls!!

I guess their justification is that, if we can shell out $1000 + for an L lens, 500 for a PSD should be easy??

Have to give credit to Sony for stepping in though. The new product that they are releaseing ni mid june is sure to cause a price drop among the PSD devices currently available!

Though it does not have any image viewing capability. It has just what I need. They entered the market a bit too late albeit!!

Hope I can still sell my "made of egg-shells x-drive pro on ebay without too much of a loss!!

Ajay

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WINGnutsDAD
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well-i guess $650 for 80 GIGS is only $8.13 GIG . . .
In reply to LeeLove, May 26, 2004

when I go on vacation or travel out of town i really can't afford to many more 2 GIG Lexar cards at the $600 each they cost. The equiv of 80 GIGS would end up costing $24,000. In that sense I guess the $650 price tag looks pretty good.

(and I ain't taking no dang computer on my vacation)

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JLC
MyWorld Studios - Madison,MS

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BJN
BJN
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Numbers
In reply to LeeLove, May 26, 2004

Don't make the mistake of comparing a product made in relatively small numbers to a high volume product's features and pricing. PSDs don't sell in anything like the numbers laptops, iPods and PDAs do, so the components will cost more as will other aspects of bringing the product to market.

Solid construction doesn't have to be tanklike, but good engineering and custom case design costs more than quick and dirty packaging we see in stuff like the Vosonic products. It apparently costs more to have an engineer think about recessing the power-on switch along with other seemingly obvious details.

Folks who insist on having image playback capability ensure they'll pay more for PSDs that are more fragile and bulky. Sony's new device has no LCD at all. If it's reliable, cheap, small and rugged that's all many of us really need.

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BJN

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LeeLove
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Re: Numbers
In reply to BJN, May 27, 2004

Good comments...

A couple of you have mentioned the volume market issue so I thought I would add my thoughts.

I didn't mention this before because my post was getting too long as it was but yes volume would help drive down the prices. BUT my premise is there is nothing in a PSD that is not readly available in a dozen other systems. The only thing that is unique is the firmware that must be written to make all the pieces work together.

  • 2.5" drives are being sold by the 1000's so these benefit from the low cost of existing laptop sales.

  • CF readers are dirt cheap. This couldn't cost more than $2 each if even that much for a raw card socket.

I am not aware of the how much drive controller chips and additional components cost but every one of these devices are used on the motherboards of just about every PC made. So I can't imagine there is a big cost involved.

I also agree this is a niche market and of course any company should charge what the market will bear. There is nothing wrong with that but the products should at least meet the reliablity standard.

Also I not sure I agree with JLC's analogy about the cost of cards vs. hd.

"...2 GIG Lexar cards at the $600 each they cost. The equiv of 80 GIGS would end up costing $24,000."

This seems like apples and oranges to me because these are two entirely different technologies and they serve two totally different purposes. Dollar per megabyte vary all over the map depending on a lot of variables. Tape vs. HD, vs. CD vs. DVD vs CF etc.

Here is the problem for PSD manfacturers.. as the price of CF cards come down and the density goes up, at some point the ability to carry around 10+ gigs of CF will be no big deal. If PSD's do not offer more value or additional functionality then their market will become dimished. Remember most of us need location storage not long term device.

The only thing that could be a problem is as the pixel density goes up so does your storage requirements. This could cause a never ending battle of resolution vs. storage. This is one reason I am not too anxious to see 8+ megapixel cameras. I like that 1gig cards are getting cheap but if a 8+mp camera turns my 1gig cards into the same storage as a 512 then I am right back where I started.

Personally I would never keep my images on a portable 80 drive any longer than absolutely necessary. I try to burn to CD as quickly as possible in order to minimize risk of losing my images. I recently had a 40gig laptop drive fail and I did not have them on CD and lost a bunch of images that I could not replace. So IMHO 80gigs in a PSD is asking for trouble.

Thanks for the thoughts and comments.

Lee

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Mac Marconi
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Re: Editorial - State of the Portable Storage Market
In reply to LeeLove, May 27, 2004

What, currently on the market, comes closest to your needs?

I agree with your priorities as to what's needed, however, I would add "capacity" to the list. Ideally, I'd like it modular with the electronics in a dock-like device and storage modules available in various capacities that can be plugged into the dock. No point in paying for the interface velectronic several times over just to increase your capacity.

We're going to be traveling out of country for two weeks on a package tour. We will each have our own camera. We need to be able to store everything we shoot until we get home. At a minimum, I want 40 GB of storage.

I don't care about mp3s or movie formats. We have a camcorder for that.

I don't care about viewing the images once they are in storage. I just want reliability and ruggedness so the images reach home safely.

It is tempting to opt for one of those devices that just burn the images onto CD-Rs...

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gasdive
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Re: Editorial - State of the Portable Storage Market
In reply to LeeLove, May 27, 2004

Rather than having a seperate device to store and review photos, why not have these cababilities built into the camera, which already offers the screen, controls etc required to review and delete.

Rather than another thing to lug around, how about putting 5 CF (or even better perhaps) 5 SD card slots on the camera. With user selectable RAID 5, RAID 0 or just five ordinary storage locations. Not only would you get everything in one package, you'd also reduce the time to flush the internal buffer to memory down to 1/4 or 1/5th of what it is now. ie the camera would work better! You could shoot 6mp jpeg at about 2fps till the cards filled up. 5 SD slots would take up a volume about the same size as a 9v transistor battery. That's surely space that you can find in a camera body given the extra performance you'd get out of the device.

However if we're really going to start on a wish list, how about packaging the whole thing in a waterproof to 100m camera, with lenses that can be changed underwater. Add a way of downloading the photos, and recharging the batteries without opening the housing (a cradle with infra-red data links and inductive charging would do it) and you've got a camera that you could take anywhere and do anything with, regardless of the conditions. Rain, snow, dirt, mud or salt water. Just hose it off. And no hassles with getting 50 rolls of film through airport x-rays.

Take it to Iraq or to Bermuda...

Cheers Jason =:)

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RDKirk
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It's coming, but from another direction
In reply to LeeLove, May 27, 2004

It's coming--but from another direction

I see a common shortness of vision among digital photographers--forgetting that "digital" is more than photography.

I bought one of the Radio Shack IO Magic boxes and combined it with a refurbished Toshiba e335 PDA (US$150). I had to add a mass storage driver to the Toshiba and do some registry tweaks (I think most PDAs come with the capability), but the PDA has a nice LCD color screen and gives me the ability to view everything but RAW files and to manage the hard drive. The PDA also has an SD slot (many have a CF slot). It works fine to do pre-shoot checking, as well as spot checks through the course of a long shooting day.

There is certainly no reason a $130 storage device and a $150 PDA can't be combined in the same paperback-sized package for less than $500.

I predict that sooner or later it will for the business market, but will someone on the photo side pick up the concept and make the necessary tweaks to optimize it for photos?
--
RDKirk

'I know you're smarter than I am. But I think you're making up some of those words.' Rocky Rooster from 'Chicken Run'

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Mac Marconi
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Re: It's coming, but from another direction
In reply to RDKirk, May 27, 2004

RDKirk wrote:

It's coming--but from another direction

I see a common shortness of vision among digital
photographers--forgetting that "digital" is more than photography.

I see no short-sightedness in photographers focusing on photography. MP3s, AVIs, WAVs are not photography. Yeah, they're digital. Excel spreadsheets are "digital", but so what? (OK, OK, some cameras allow a short WAV voice notation so I guess I have to concede that these too should have to be off-loaded into a photographer's PSD.)

I just need a solution to store JPG, NEF, TIF, RAF, etc. images. Arguably, viewing those images and meta data about the images are legitimate, albeit, not necessary functions of such a device. It would be nice to have these as options.

The "digital" realm is very big. It is, as noted earlier, a matter of doing one thing well, rather than doing all manner of things in a compromised manner. I see no lack of vision in just wanting to get the job done without a lot of bells and whistles.

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Joseph
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The reason why they charge an arm and a leg...
In reply to ajay kumar, May 27, 2004

... is probably because there is no market and the relatively low production volumn. Demand will be up with the new generations of affordable DSLRs and 8 megapixels (& up) prosumer P&S's.

Sony is NOT too late. I think they are testing the water. They probably do not want to put in too much features to jack up the asking price. The future generations devices will have the features that we want. I'm pretty sure the big Korean and Chinese corps will follow.

As for me I decided not to get one of these device now even though I have decided on a Nixvue Digital Album. I will take my wife's mini, ultra light laptop (with 38GB of free disk space!!) on the upcoming trip.

ajay kumar wrote:

.. because we, as a community of photographers pay for it!!
Not that we have a choice.
Lets face it Photograhy is an EXPENSIVE hobby.
The more serious you get.. the more yo need to spend.

The PSD companies too want to ride the wave and make a fast buck
out of us hapless souls!!

I guess their justification is that, if we can shell out $1000 +
for an L lens, 500 for a PSD should be easy??

Have to give credit to Sony for stepping in though. The new product
that they are releaseing ni mid june is sure to cause a price drop
among the PSD devices currently available!

Though it does not have any image viewing capability. It has just
what I need. They entered the market a bit too late albeit!!

Hope I can still sell my "made of egg-shells x-drive pro on ebay
without too much of a loss!!

Ajay

 Joseph's gear list:Joseph's gear list
Sony RX100 II Nikon D70 Nikon D800 Nikon D1X Sony Alpha NEX-7 +44 more
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