The NEC HD DVD Multireader HR-1100A is the first drive that is capable of reading the HD-DVD format. HD DVD media are read at 2x speed. DVD minus and DVD plus media can be read at up to 8x DVD speed, as well as rewritable and dual-layer DVDs. It can also read DVD-RAMs at 5x speed. Finally, the HD-DVD Multireader delivers a 32x CD speed as a CD-ROM drive. According to NEC, a combination device that writes CDs and DVDs will be sold starting in May. The Japanese company has also announced its first HD DVD-/DVD-/CD burner for July. The first list price for the HD-DVD drive will be probably below the original target of €500.
French Studio Canal and the Weinstein Co., responsible for hits such as "Shakespeare in Love," also will come out with movies in the HD DVD format for Europe, according to statements from the the HD DVD Promotion Group at last week's CES. What NEC did not clarify is whether the provided HD video content will be allowed to be stored on the hard disk of the PC where the HR-1100A will be installed, and the PC requirements in DRM supported hardware (graphics card, etc) in order to enjoy the movies on your PC display. In addition, it is not clear whether the NEC player will support the Managed Copy function.
NEC's HR-1100A will also be included in Toshiba's first home HD-DVD players.
Commenting on the possibilities of launching a combo drive that would read both Blu-ray HD DVD discs, NEC said that this should not be expected during 2006, and it would at least cost 30 percent more than the scheduled reader, since it would require two different laser heads, one for each format. Another issue is licenses which are quite lucrative for both camps. Furthermore, both camps have laid down rules that don't allow a manufacturer producing a drive with their format, to also support the opposing camps format. So what we currently have are situations like that of PC manufacturers who will support only one format. Despite this, at the CES in Las Vegas, the list of movies to be released is about the same for both formats.
Although the announcements and the various demos that took place at this year's CES sound promising, it is obvious that 2006 will not find a HD DVD or Blu-Ray reader mounted on a PC or incorporated on set top devices geared for the consumer market. Both technologies will initially be addressed at videophiles or IT enthusiasts that are willing to pay the exorbitant amounts of money to own the new devices.