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Thursday, December 18, 2003
NEC demonstrates combo drive for next and current DVDs

NEC said on Thursday it had developed an optical disc drive capable of playing back and recording both next-generation and existing DVDs.

The recorder comes with the world's first single optical head that combines both a red laser -- which reads and writes the current generation of DVDs -- and a blue laser, which does so for next-generation discs.

HD-DVD, standard offers high recording capacity by using blue laser diodes with wavelength shorter than the current red laser diodes used for DVD. Both single (15GB) and dual layer (30GB) ROM media have been already approved by the DVD forum.

By combining two lasers into a single optical head, NEC said its new disc drives would be smaller and thinner than other drives that use two optical heads. A system chip developed by NEC’s semiconductor division powers the drive.

NEC said it expects to launch a commercial product sometime in 2005, but that the timing of its rollout would depend on the amount of next-generation DVD content available at the time. The first products will likely be used in PCs, NEC said.

Earlier this year, Sony began sales of the world's first high-definition video DVD recorder that uses blue-laser technology.

The proliferation of high-definition television is expected to spur demand for video recorders using blue lasers, since recording capacity of next-generation DVDs is almost four times that of existing discs. Sony is part of a consortium that includes some of the world's biggest consumer electronics makers, such as Philips and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., maker of the Panasonic brand; to back a technology called Blu-ray.

NEC and Toshiba, on the other hand, support a rival standard called HD-DVD, which last month won the backing of the DVD Forum, an industry association of some 220 electronics and media companies.

Tsune Hisashi of NEC said that the drive is expected in the market in 2005. Compared to Blu-Ray technology, he said that the NEC's proposal is easier to be implemented since the media can be manufactured easier since they do not include any cartridge, and their compatibility with current DVD players is the key of success.

In addition, he said that only ROM media will be available initially. However, although the recordable format is technically achieved, the DVD Forum has not yet approved it.

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