The first Blu-ray (BD) disc drive for desktop PCs is here, but be warned -- it won't play commercial BD movies.
Sony officially announced its BWU-100A product at its "Experience More 2006" event in Sydney yesterday, all the while acknowledging that there's significant room for improvement before the product is viable for integration into media centre PCs.
Vincent Bautista, Sony's product manager for data storage, told CNET.com.au that due to copy protection issues and lagging software development, the drive will only play user-recorded high-definition content from a digital camcorder, and not commercial movies released under the BD format.
Bautista says that one of two reasons for this is the fact that commercial content is encrypted with High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), which can only be decrypted using a HDCP-compliant graphics card that offers DVI or HDMI connections. Since there are currently no PCs for sale offering graphics chips that support HDCP, this isn't yet possible.
The second reason, according to Bautista, is that BD playback software that can decrypt HDCP isn't "released as a saleable item yet". Today, the only HDCP-supporting BD playback application is the OEM version of Intervideo WinDVD BD that's bundled with Sony's VAIO VGN-AR18GP notebook. The AR18GP also offers an HDCP-compliant HDMI connector, which makes it capable of playing commercial movies without issue.
Bautista is optimistic that both issues will be resolved "soon", and says that despite not being able to play commercial content, the drive is still useful as a "storage device", particularly for those looking to create and distribute their own high-definition home movies on BD-R and BD-RE discs.
The Sony BWU100A has a write speed of 2x and will be available this month for AU$1399.
Editor's Note: CNET.com.au is targeted at the Australian market, so the stories published here only consider products available to Australian consumers at the time of publication.