Pioneer to sell Blu-ray drive in early ’06

Pioneer Electronics announced its first Blu-ray Disc drive Tuesday, the BDR-101A, which will store as much as 25GB of data when it goes on sale in the first quarter of 2006.

The drive isn’t expected to be for everyone, Pioneer said. One particular market the company does hope to reach is so-called content creation professionals, who need to make sure BD-ROM movies work properly before they’re mass-produced for mainstream consumers.

Blu-ray drives, backed by an alliance led by Sony, are set to compete with HD-DVD drives that are expected to arrive at roughly the same time. Both drive types employ a blue laser that can read and write smaller areas of information, allowing more data to be squeezed onto a single disk. That’s important as high-definition video arrives.

However, Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats are incompatible, leading to a bitter battle between the two factions and the possibility of slower adoption by consumers leery after the infamous Beta vs. VHS videotape struggle. In September, Intel and Microsoft announced their support for HD-DVD, and one reason for the move was data capacity. HD-DVD would be available in 15GB and 30GB versions, but Blu-ray initially would be available only in a 25GB version, they said, with a 50GB version lagging.

The Blu-ray group, however, said 50GB versions would be available in the spring.

Pioneer’s drive can record BD discs at 2x speed, Pioneer said. It also can record DVD-R and DVD+R at 8x speed and DVD-RW and DVD+RW at 4x speed.

The company plans to announce the drive’s price when the product is available.


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