Pioneer Prepares to Launch Blu-ray Disc Drive

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Pioneer plans to unveil at the International Consumer Electronics Show its first Blu-ray Disc format optical disc drive for personal computers, it said this week. The drive will go on sale in Japan at the end of January pending the completion of two licensing issues, the company says.

The BDR-101A drive is compatible with non-cartridge single-layer recordable BD-R and rewritable BD-RW discs and single and dual-layer read-only BD-ROM discs, the company says. It is also compatible with a wide range of DVD-based media and can write DVD-R and DVD-RW discs, says Pioneer.

Pioneer plans to initially offer it direct to Japanese PC makers for inclusion in their desktop computers and systems and will later expand sales to other countries, says Akira Muneto, a spokesperson for Pioneer in Tokyo. It's scheduled to be available in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2006. This schedule means that PCs on the market boasting Blu-ray Disc support could appear in the first half of 2006.

The drive will have an ATAPI interface that delivers a data transfer rate of 33MB per second, says Muneto.

The company did not specify a price for the drive or plans for sales of the drive direct to consumers.

Content Management Concerns

Pioneer's drive is the first announcement of a shipping date from any optical disc drive maker although its January schedule may be derailed by a delay in licensing of the content management system or Blu-ray Disc logo, it says.

The inability of the companies behind the AACS (Advanced Access Content System) content management system to complete their work has already caused Toshiba to put launch plans for its HD-DVD player on hold. AACS is made up of a number of companies from the electronics and content industries. The group's founders include IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic), Sony, Toshiba, Walt Disney, and Warner Bros.

The group has declined several requests for comment or interview regarding when the first version of its format will be completed.

CES runs in Las Vegas, Nevada, from January 5 to January 8, 2006.

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