Much buzz yesterday afternoon about Pioneer’s announcement to unveil a Blu-ray Disc drive at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in early January. According to the announcement, the first Blu-ray Disc format optical disc drive for personal computers will go on sale in Japan at the end of January -- pending licensing issues.
This is the first announcement of a shipping date from any optical disc drive maker. Blu-ray, also known as Blu-ray Disc (BD), is the name of a next-generation optical disc format jointly developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), a group of the world's leading consumer electronics, personal computer and media manufacturers. This group includes Apple, Dell, Hitachi, HP, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, TDK and Thomson.
While current optical disc technologies such as DVD, DVD±R, DVD±RW, and DVD-RAM use a red laser to read and write data, the new format uses a blue-violet laser instead, hence the name Blu-ray.
The format was developed to enable recording, rewriting and playback of High-Definition video (HD), as well as storing large amounts of data. A single-layer Blu-ray Disc can hold 25GB, which can be used to record more than two hours of or more than 13 hours of standard-definition TV. There are also dual-layer versions of the discs that can hold 50GB.
Despite the different type of lasers used, Blu-ray products can easily be made backwards compatible through the use of a BD/DVD/CD compatible optical pickup that would allow playback of CDs and DVDs. The benefit of using a blue-violet laser (405nm) is that it has a shorter wavelength than a red laser (650nm), which makes it possible to focus the laser spot with even greater precision. This allows data to be packed more tightly and stored in less space, so it's possible to fit more data on the disc even though it's the same size as a CD/DVD.
Initial plans by Pioneer call for it to initially offer the drive directly to Japanese PC makers for their desktop computers, with sales later expanding to other countries. This translates into PCs with Blu-ray Disc support appearing on the market in the first half of next year.