Pioneer, Sharp Let Blu-ray Play

CHIBA, JAPAN -- Two companies supporting the Blu-ray Disc optical disc format unveiled prototype players at the Ceatec 2004 exhibition, taking place here this week.

Among the prototypes was the first Blu-ray Disc drive intended for personal computer use.

The drive is from Pioneer and uses a recently developed system that combines a signal processor and control circuitry for a blue laser and red laser in a single chip. The blue laser is used for Blu-ray Disc and the red laser is used in DVDs, meaning the new drive supports both disc formats. Until now most prototypes made use of multiple chips to accomplish the same task.

Formats supported by the drive include read-only BD-ROM discs, write-once BD-R discs, and dual-layer rewritable BD-RW discs, all at 2x speed, and a host of DVD formats. These include DVD-ROM at 12x, read-only support for DVD-RAM at 2x, DVD+/-R at 8x, DVD+/-RW at 4x, DVD-R dual layer at 2x, and DVD+R dual layer at 2.4x.

Pioneer also showed a larger prototype Blu-ray Disc player intended to be used with a television.

Release dates and target prices for the prototypes were not available.

Also on Display

At the Sharp booth, the company displayed a similar prototype under its Aquos line of LCD television sets. The player sported logos on the front panel indicating support for DVD-Video, DVD-RW, and DVD-R in addition to Blu-ray Disc. Sharp would not comment on a release date or price.

Sony and Matsushita Electrical Industrial (Panasonic) have already commercialized the technology and sell Blu-ray Disc recorders in Japan. However, the machines offer limited Blu-ray Disc format support and won't play prerecorded discs, which are expected to be introduced in the next few years.

The format is competing with a system under development by the DVD Forum and a team led by NEC and Toshiba called HD-DVD. While HD-DVD has yet to be commercialized, its main backers say they plan to launch products supporting the format in 2005. Toshiba's HD-DVD player will be for living-room use while NEC expects to launch a personal computer drive.

Toshiba is displaying its latest HD-DVD player prototype at Ceatec and the show has also seen the first public unveiling of a prototype player by Sanyo Electric.

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