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Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Blu-ray format in consoles

The GaN-laser-based format is expected to be used in Sony's successor to the hugely successful PlayStation games console.

Japanese electronics powerhouses Sony and JVC are both making moves to accelerate the development of Blu-ray disc data storage technology.

The format, which relies on GaN-based diode lasers, is believed to have been identified by Sony as a key component of the company's forthcoming games console, commonly known as the PlayStation3.

According to reports in the Japanese press, Sony revealed its decision to use the format in the console at a press conference held by the Blu-ray disc founders.

Sony has been investing cash into the development of Blu-ray technology and has an agreement with Nichia, the leading GaN laser manufacturer, under which the two companies share intellectual property relating to manufacture of the 405 nm devices.

Sony is expected to reveal more details about the use of the 50 GB dual-layer discs in the games console at an event in Japan in March next year.

At the same press conference, the Blu-ray founders approved the playback-only, or BD-ROM, version of the technology. "Blu-ray disc is on schedule for companies to introduce BD-ROM players, drives and pre-recorded software to consumers beginning in late 2005," said Maureen Weber, the general manager of Hewlett-Packard's optical data storage business.

Meanwhile JVC says that it has developed a manufacturing method allowing low-cost production of Blu-ray discs. A report in the Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun suggests that master discs can be manufactured with current DVD production equipment. That means the capital investment required to shift to the new format should cost less than 10% of the conventional cost of changing technologies.

JVC plans to make the master discs using a laser emitting in the far ultraviolet, says the report. More complex approaches, for example electron beam equipment, has so far been used to make the master discs.

At the other end of the supply chain, Japanese materials suppliers have formed an R&D association to develop large GaN and ZnO crystals for use as substrates upon which the blue diode emitters can be manufactured.

Mitsubishi and five other companies plan to have equipment in place to fabricate 2-inch substrates from the crystals within five years. The market for these substrates is expected to reach ? 40 billion ($366 million) in 2010.

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