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Blue laser format gets green light

A consortium of companies developing Blu-ray Disc technology, a recordable DVD format using blue-violet lasers, announces the start date for the licensing of the technology.

Manufacturers looking for a higher-capacity recordable DVD format will want to mark Feb. 17 on their calendars.

The nine companies promoting Blu-ray Disc technology--a next-generation recordable DVD format using blue-violet lasers--announced Thursday that licensing will begin Feb. 17. Blu-ray Disc technology allows for 27GB storage capacities on a single-sided 12cm disc. DVDs hold 4.7GB of data. Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsushita Electric Industrial, Pioneer, Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sharp, Sony and Thomson are known as the "Blu-ray Disc Founders" and have been pursuing a broad acceptance of the format.

Blu-ray technology uses a short-wavelength blue-violet laser instead of the red lasers in current optical drives to read data off discs. The higher-capacity Blu-ray discs will enable the recording of high-definition broadcasts, which offer better picture quality than the more broadly available TV broadcasts.

The licensing agreements, which are 10-year renewable contracts, will include the right to use the Blu-ray format and logo as well as the content protection specifications. Licenses for the format and logo will range from $20,000 to $60,000 depending on which products--discs, players or components--manufacturers want to develop. The same is true for the protection specifications, which range in price annually from $4,000 to $12,000.

Companies already have been developing products using Blu-ray technology. Philips has demonstrated a prototype miniature Blu-ray disc drive that uses a 3cm disc that can store up to 1GB of data. Typical CDs, measuring 12cm in diameter, can hold up to 650MB of data. The prototype drive is suitable for use in portable devices such as digital cameras, handhelds and cell phones. Philips has been working to shrink the drive.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Sony Chief Operating Officer Kunitake Ando said recordable DVD Blu-ray Disc products will likely appear this year, initially in Japan. Ando said the technology is ready, but some licensing issues still need to be worked out.