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Sony to ship blue laser storage rig next month

Not cheap, though

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Sony's 23.3GB blue laser optical storage system will finally come to market next month, when the company ships products based on the technology. Those products were to have shipped in the summer.

Aimed at the kind of high-end storage applications traditionally delivered by 5.25in, 9.1GB Magneto Optical (MO) discs, the Professional Disc for Data (PDD) - as Sony is now calling it - was launched last April.

The multi-layer 4.7in discs are fixed inside cartridges. Instead of the red lasers used to read not only MO discs, but CDs and DVDs, PDD uses blue laser light which can be focused on a smaller area of the disc's surface, thus increasing the medium's data density and thus its overall capacity.

Sony said it will offer an internal PDD drive, the BW-F101, capable of using both recordable and re-writeable PDD media. As per Sony's April launch, the drive will cost around $3300, with discs coming in at $45 for 'PDD-R' and $50 for 'PDD-RW'.

Sony is already planning a second-generation machine that ups the capacity to 50GB. Alas we'll have to wait to 2005 for it. A third-generation unit, due some years down the line, will double capacity and throughput again, to 100GB and 36MBps, respectively, Sony said.

Toshiba and NEC, meanwhile, are working on blue laser devices based on existing DVD media - which, they claim, will make the technology not only much cheaper to implement but will be backward compatible with today's DVDs. Nor does it require the disc to be fitted inside a cartridge.

The Toshiba/NEC read/write disc will offer a capacity of at least 36GB and builds on work carried out by the two companies on a next-generation blue laser-based DVD format. Their efforts are currently being considered by the DVD Forum, the body overseeing the format. The Toshiba-NEC technology is designed to boost today's DVD capacities of 8.52GB for a dual-layer, single-sided read-only disc to 30GB, and a 4.7GB single-layer, single-sided read-and-write disc to 20GB. ®

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