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Panasonic’s Tsuga Anticipates Blu-ray Victory In Format War

In the eyes of Panasonic’s digital storage and software technologies executive officer, Kasuhiro Tsuga, the next-generation optical disc format war is virtually over, and Blu-ray Disc will be the winner.

Tsuga told U.S. reporters attending the recent CEATEC show, here, that Paramount’s announcement to add support for the Blu-ray format in addition to its previously announced support for the rival HD DVD format has put Blu-ray Disc in a commanding position, with a majority of studios promising Blu-ray support for pre-recordable HD movie discs.

Tsuga said the war is currently being fought on two fronts including recordable formats and prerecorded (ROM) formats. A number of manufacturers have been selling Blu-ray Disc recorders in Japan for over a year, he said, adding “there is no format war” in that contest since HD DVD has yet to introduce a player, let alone a recorder.

Blu-ray Disc manufacturers are “doing lots and lots of R&D activities in the area of recorders,” Tsuga said, adding that current efforts are focused on reducing costs, developing slimmer drives for notebook PCs and making higher-speed mechanisms, that currently run at up to a 2x, 72Mbps rate.

At the CEATEC Show, Panasonic announced it will introduce Blu-ray Disc drives for notebook and desktop computers that can write and read single- and dual-layer BDs in addition to all DVD and CD formats. Panasonic will make the drives available to computer manufacturers in spring 2006, when it will also introduce a non-cartridge Blu-ray Disc with storage capacities of 25GB and 50GB.

The notebook PC drive supports single-layer 25 GB and single-sided, dual-layer 50 GB Blu-ray Discs.

Panasonic said it employs a laminated glass plate prism technology that reduces optical pickup size to one-twelfth of the size of conventional pickups.

Panasonic will also start production on a half-height drive for desktop PCs by January 2006. The desktop drives will accept bare-discs and will write at up to 2X speed.

Meanwhile, Panasonic said it plans to mass-produce four types of bare (without a caddy) Blu-ray Discs including: single-layer 25GB and single-sided, dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray Disc rewriteable (BD-RE) and recordable (BD-R).

As for prerecorded ROM discs, Panasonic and most other manufacturers in the Blu-ray Disc camp showed prototype BD-ROM players, but no firm marketing plans were announced.

Toshiba, a founder of the HD DVD format, announced at the show that it would launch an HD DVD player to be accompanied by a library of mostly Japanese movie titles by the end of the year in Japan. A full-scale hardware and software launch has been pushed back into 2006 for the United States.

However, Toshiba began HD DVD demonstrations this month at a Bjorn’s flagship store in San Antonio, Texas. The company plans to make players available for demonstration purposes to select retailers around the country during the holidays.