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Blank optical disc manufacturers are rolling out the first generation of recordable and rewriteable Blu-ray Disc (BD) media in the United States, despite a lack of actual hardware on the market, giving the format an early step up on its rival technology, HD DVD.
Anticipating the gradual arrival of a pipeline of high-definition recorder decks, camcorders and PCs with writeable BD drives, a few companies have begun shipping product, with others planning similar rollouts in the coming months.
TDKwas first to market last month when it began shipping single-layer recordable 25GB BD-R and rewriteable BD-RE blank discs, setting the retail pricing bar at $19.99 for BD–R and $24.99 for BD–RE. The discs are bare, cartridge-free media.
A promotion with Pioneer will bundle TDK's BD media with what Pioneer claims to be the first commercially available Blu-ray Disc writer available in the United States, the Pioneer BDR-101A internal drive for PCs.
“Both companies have played key roles in the development and historic launch of Blu-ray,” said Bruce Youmans, marketing VP at TDK.
The company is planning a subsequent rollout of dual-layer 50GB BD-R and BD-RE media later this year. The discs will retail for $47.99 and $59.99, respectively.
TDK's media contains Durabis hard-coating technology to combat errors caused by scratches and fingerprint smudges.
A 50-piece spindle pack of 25GB discs is slated by TDK to ship in the second quarter, but retail pricing was unavailable.
Two major consumer electronics hardware makers have also started shipping writeable Blu-ray media, in advance of their own developing BD product lines.
Sony, which first shipped a BD recorder in Japan in 2003, released in early May single-layer 25GB blank media, with $20 BD-R and $25 BD-RE discs manufactured with the company's AccuCORE technology. First used in Sony's recordable DVD media, AccuCORE was re-engineered for BD to deliver enhanced reliability and durability, the company said. It includes a scratch-resistant hard coating, a material design that prevents data corruption, a precise cover layer designed to reduce fluctuation as the disc spins, and a disc structure that helps prevent warping due to severe temperature or humidity.
“Sony knows Blu-ray like no other company,” said Mike Lucas, the company's media and application solutions division marketing direction. “We expect our Blu-ray recording media to take the high-definition experience to a new level of performance,” he added.
Sony's future product roadmap includes a wide range of Blu-ray hardware devices, including a BD player and VAIO desktop and notebook PCs with internal BD drives.
Sony also has dual-layer 50GB media on the way, with BD-R ($48) and BD-RE ($60) discs now slated for a June release.
Panasonic began shipping 25GB BD-R and BD-RE media in April, with retails of $21.99 and $29.99, respectively.
For its part, Panasonic is looking to raise consumer awareness of the new high-definition format, citing www.blu-raydisc.com as a good technical resource for those interested in the format's strengths and in products still to come.
The company is stressing the cross-platform benefits of the format, projecting out a household where high-definition TV broadcast signals are recorded by a BD player/recorder deck and ripped to BD media for long-term storage, while video captured by the household's BD camcorder can be downloaded to a BD-capable computer where it can be edited, recorded on a BD disc and played back on the BD home-theater system in the living room.
The company also cited a June release for its double-layer 50GB media. The higher capacity discs will retail for $49.99 (write-once) and $69.99 (rewriteable).
Memorex plans a June ship date for its BD-R and BD-RE blank media. The 25GB discs will be packaged as singles, with jewel cases, in hang-tab packaging, and carry $19.99 and $29.99 price tags, respectively.
Memorex anticipates shipping it first HD DVD-R discs in July and HD DVD-RW discs in August. The discs will be priced comparatively to the company's BD offerings.
Other companies with writeable Blu-ray and HD DVD media on the way include Verbatim, Imation and Fujifilm.
Verbatim's product launches will be timed to coincide with the arrival of high-definition burners and drives later this year, the company said. Blu-ray media will include single-layer 25GB and dual-layer 50GB BD-R and BD-RE versions. Single-layer 15GB and dual-layer 30GB HD DVD-R media is also planned.
Imation will also play on both sides of the format fence. “We are currently planning to manufacture both HD DVD and Blu-ray recordable media formats, and we are excited about the availability of the new technology, said Tom Lally, U.S. marketing and sales executive director. “We anticipate that there will be a steady market adoption in the years ahead.”
Fujifilm, which introduced cartridge-based rewritable Blu-ray Discs (23.3GB) into the Japanese market in 2003, will make its bare single-layer 25GB BD-R and BD-RE media available to U.S retailers in June. The company showed prototypes of both BD and HD DVD discs at International CES in January, and intends to bring HD DVD blanks to market later this year. Pricing has not been set for either format.
BD media currently on the market offers 2x (72Mbps) recording speed. Most manufacturers claim a capacity of 3.5 to 4.5 hours of high-definition content on a 25GB BD disc and up to nine hours on a 50GB disc, a bit more than the 20GB, 2.5- to three-hour capacity of HD DVD's first generation of recordable media, which will debut later this year.
Hardware manufacturers who are backing the Blu-ray format include Bose, Hitachi, JVC, Kenwood, LG, Mitsubishi, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Sanyo, Sharp, Sony, Thomson and Yamaha. PC suppliers Apple, Dell, HP and Levono (Thinkpad) are also in the Blu-ray camp.
Supporting the HD DVD format on the CE side is Sanyo, Toshiba and Thomson. PC and IT companies in the HD DVD camp include HP, Intel, Microsoft, NEC and Toshiba.