DVD drive marries red and blue lasers

Japanese computer maker NEC develops technology to record and read both current and next-generation DVDs with a single optical head.

NEC has developed technology to record and read both current and next-generation DVDs with a single optical head, adding to the momentum of blue-laser DVD products.

NEC said Thursday that its new optical head combines both blue and red lasers. Red lasers are used in today's DVD players and recorders. Blue lasers can be used to read and write greater amounts of data on discs, according to NEC.

The Japan-based computer maker also has created an optical drive based on this technology.

The advancement should help NEC win over customers who may want to use their existing DVDs in future optical drives, said Wolfgang Schlichting, an analyst at research firm IDC. "End users tend to not want to leave old technology behind easily," he said.

NEC and Toshiba have proposed a blue-laser format to the DVD Forum industry group. The format for HD-DVD, also known as high-definition and high-density DVD, specifies a 20GB rewritable disc and a read-only disc with 15GB on a single layer and 30GB on dual layers. DVDs read by red-laser drives can hold 4.7GB on a single layer and 8.5GB on dual layers.

In November, the DVD Forum's steering committee approved a preliminary version of the HD-DVD specifications for read-only discs.

The format proposed by NEC and Toshiba, faces competition from so-called Blu-ray technology, backed by Sony and others. Sony sells a blue-laser optical recorder product for homes in Japan.

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