Blu-ray Disc takes a step forward

Following on from its unveiling in February this year, the nine companies behind the next-generation Blu-ray Disc optical format are to start disclosing detailed specifications to interested parties.

The specifications will be available from June 14 via Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV, which will handle the disclosure, in return for a US$5,000 charge. Recipients will need to complete an agreement specifying the information will be used for internal evaluation regarding the possible future development of products based on the format.

Unlike today's DVD (digital versatile disc) format, which is based on a red laser, the Blu-ray Disc format uses shorter wavelength blue lasers. These record data in a smaller space on the disc surface and so the maximum capacity of a disc is 27G bytes per side -- a big improvement on DVD which has a maximum capacity of 4.7G bytes on a single-sided, single-layer disc. So what will a user do with all this capacity? The companies are betting that high definition television will take off and all of that capacity will be needed to record TV shows and keep their original quality. High definition broadcasts run through storage space at the rate of around 10G bytes per hour, the companies said.

In addition to Philips, the eight other companies that founded the Blu-ray Disc consortium are: Hitachi Ltd., LG Electronics Inc., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (Panasonic), Pioneer Electronics Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Sharp Corp., Sony Corp. and Thomson Multimedia SA.

With disclosure of the specifications, the companies hope to generate interest and support among consumer electronics makers and begin licensing the system from the end of June, they said in a joint statement.

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