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Blu-ray, HDD Dominate CEATEC

Blu-ray disc drive prototypes, hard drive recorders with integrated DVD burners, PDAs and cellphones were the hot products at CEATEC, held here earlier this month.

The vast majority of the products are, at least initially, intended for the Japanese market, but Philips, Sony, Matsushita and JVC were among the companies demonstrating their Blu-ray technology at the show. None of the companies would say when a Blu-ray laser-based product would be available, but an executive from Sharp Electronics said any substantial application of the technology would not be viable for at least several years. A Philips representative at the show said its products should be ready when HDTV becomes widely accepted. The general Blu-ray specification is slated for release in 2003. Generally, these drives and media can potentially hold about 27GB of data per disc, although double-density discs are also being developed.

Combination DVD burner/HDD devices were found in most booths. Sharp, Sony, Philips, JVC, Matsushita and Hitachi all had models on display. This product category is well developed in Japan and DVD -R/RW and +R/RW products are widely available at retail.

Sony’s upcoming offering will be part of its Cocoon product family. The CSV-E77 has an 80GB hard drive, cellphone and Ethernet capability, an MPEG-2 tuner and Sony’s proprietary MyCast interface. The CSV-E77 can be programmed either through the device, a cellphone or a home’s PC and is expected to sell for about $1,100 in Japan, plus a small service fee.

A Memory Stick pavilion, similar to what was created for International CES, was on the show floor. The majority of the products displayed were from Memory Stick developer Sony, but Hewlett-Packard inkjet printers, Samsung and Acer notebook computers and a flash memory card reader from SanDisk were on hand.

Philips also showed its Small Form Factor Optical disc technology. This quarter-size disc is expected to hold up to 1GB of data and is intended for use in portable audio players, PDAs, notebooks and cellphones. Pricing and availability were not available.

JVC showed a prototype HD camcorder that is expected to launch into the Japanese market sometime around the end of 2002, a JVC representative said. U.S. plans were not know and pricing for the Japanese launch is not set.

Matsushita showed several prototype products, including a pair of thin, about 1-inch wide by 12-inches tall, speakers and had a road map for expanding SD flash card capacity indicated 1GB cards would be out next year with capacity increasing 1GB per year for the following two years.

The other product area that dominated the show was cell phone. Every CE vendor displayed a variety of phones, particularly the J-phone style that is now wildly popular in the Japanese market. These are equipped with Internet capability and low-resolution digital cameras.