Called the "UMD" format (for "Universal Media Disc"), the disc itself is only 60mm (2.36 inches) in diameter, but has a storage capacity of 1.8GB. This is more than two and a half times the capacity of a standard CD, and sufficiently large to accommodate one or more compressed full-length movies, as well as serving as the medium for distributing Sonys new full-motion video-games titles. The PSP portable game system, already a major hit in Japan, will begin to be sold in North America in March, and a bit later this year in Europe. The device itself includes a sizeable LCD viewing screen and built-in stereo speakers.
Sony intends to license UMD technology to other manufacturers, and hopes that the new format will become the standard for listening and viewing all pre-recorded audio and video programming in the portable environment. Sonys DADC disc-production facilities in Japan, Terre Haute (Indiana), and Salzburg (Austria), are already replicating UMD PSP game titles and presumably other audio and video programming. The company has high expectations for the UMD format, and has projected production of over 100 million UMDs in 2005 alone.
For the moment at least, UMD is a playback format only; there are no announced plans for a recordable version. However, a number of companies are trying to resurrect the DataPlay disc format for use in various portable applications, and recordable versions are very definitely part of their plans. DataPlay discs are very small, just a bit over one inch in diameter, and the new versions can have storage capacities as high as 750MB, the same as a CD. Unfortunately, the companies promoting DataPlay products to date lack the marketing clout of a Sony, and this may limit the growth and success of this interesting optical format.