To be clear, I still think tape has a role, either as a very long archive storage area or certainly as a component in the backup process. My concern is: What manufacturer is going to take tape to the next level?
At a drive-level, things appear to be OK. The Linear Tape Open (LTO) consortium of Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), Quantum Corp. (NYSE: QTM), and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) will continue to advance LTO technology along its roadmap. That said, I think that tape drives could benefit by having a tape evangelist. Someone to make bold statements like "You can't afford to power disk drives for the next 50 years -- you have to use tape, and here is how we are going to make tape even more palatable." While I might very well argue with that person, the case at least needs to be made.
The challenge is the three members of the LTO consortium are going to be limited in their advocacy of the technology. In varying degrees, all three companies may be more interested in selling disk than tape. They have their wings clipped and mouths muzzled and can't make bold statements like the above. IBM could be the exception here: Because of its heritage it seems to get tape better than the rest; it makes its own technology outside of the LTO family; and it has a vested interest in tape's success.
When you start looking at the tape library community, things get ugly. Real ugly. Most of the major providers of tape libraries are having financial struggles and are racing out of the tape solutions market to the disk solutions market as fast as they possibly can. Sure, there is the occasional new library release that comes out, mostly to support faster drives, but it is rare to see real innovation.