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Sony Sets Early ’08 Blu-ray PC Reader In Launch

Sony will introduce a sub-$200 Blu-ray Disc reader for the PC aftermarket in early 2008.

The device will have no burning capabilities for any type of media, said Bob DeMoulin, Sony’s marketing manager, branded optical storage. This will be Sony’s first foray into the BD reader arena.

“A Blu-ray player at a sub-$200 price point becomes real attractive to the consumer. This is how it was done with DVD-ROM,” he said.

Sony’s plans include launching an internal drive, and DeMoulin said there is a great case to be made for an external drive for the expanding notebook market; however, a final decision on the external version has not been made.

Sony also announced it will start shipping a second-generation internal Blu-ray writer in November with an expected $600 suggested price point.

The BWU200S has 4x BD-R write speeds, about twice the rate of the first-generation model, enabling a 50GB BD-R disc to be filled in about 45 minutes. In addition, it has 16x DVD+/- burn speed. The drive is bundled with CyberLink BD Solution software allowing the user to author, edit, burn and view high-definition content in 1080i format.

The drive uses a serial ATA interface, has a 5.25-inch form factor and can operate on most PCs made during the past four years.

The drive will sell through starting in November; the company is now taking pre-orders, but distribution could expand to other e-tailers during the holiday period, DeMoulin said.

The market for BD burners is still in its very early stages. Sony sold through about 2,500 units of its first-generation burner starting in the spring of 2007. As Sony expected, these were mainly purchased by professionals, such as videographers, even though they were sold through mainstream retailers like Best Buy and Fry’s Electronics, DeMoulin said. The drives were initially priced at $799.

Sony will consider it a huge achievement if 10,000 of the latest drives are sold, he said.

Again the primary customer will be the professional and prosumer due to its price point and the fact that there is still no real reason for the average household to have a Blu-ray burner outside of storing HD video.

No hard plans are in place for an external drive, but DeMoulin thought one could be available in mid-2008 if the market required it.

DeMoulin was not certain the overall impact the availability of these drives will have on expanding the Blu-ray market. However, it will set the stage for the Blu-ray/HD DVD battle to move into the PC space in a big way.

Toshiba has also taken steps to bring HD DVD into the IT space by including HD DVD readers in several of its upcoming Satellite notebook computers. Mark Simon, the company’s VP/GM, digital products division, said these products are the core of Toshiba’s HD DVD strategy.

Simon said by late 2008 50 percent of Toshiba’s laptops will feature HD DVD drives.

DeMoulin reiterated that the 2008 retail campaign will not settle which format will win out in the end, but he said it will be interesting to watch.