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Sony beams in blue laser discs

The company introduces optical storage discs that use blue-laser technology to hold more data and that offer improved durability.

Sony debuted on Monday optical storage discs that use blue-laser technology to hold more data and that offer improved durability.

The Sony Professional Disc for Data, which targets the business market worldwide, uses blue laser technology as opposed to the traditional red-laser system. The new product is similar to the consumer-oriented Blu-ray storage discs, which Sony has been piloting in Japan.

Sony indicated that the Professional Disc and Blu-ray will remain disparate formats targeted at different markets. The Professional Disc lineup is aimed at libraries and other operations with high storage needs, while Blue-ray is meant for consumers that want to save memory-intensive digital content such as video.

According to Sony, the Professional Disc uses the shorter wavelength provided by a blue-violet laser, along with an upgraded laser lens, to hold up to four times more data than can current DVDs.

The Professional Disc features 23.3GB of storage capacity per single-sided disc and is available in both write-once and rewritable versions. The discs offer 11MB-per-second read capabilities and 9MB-per-second write speeds. They will sell at retail for about $45.

"Our customers have been clamoring for an innovative optical storage platform that offers massive capacity, while still retaining the high-speed, random-access benefits of disc," Masaki Hattori, director of marketing for Sony Electronics, said in a statement.

The blue-laser discs feature a narrower track pitch--comparable to line spacing on a sheet of paper--than red laser-based technologies. Sony said that when used with blue-violet lasers, the system results in a higher recording density. The company said it also improved disc durability, developing an antistatic polycarbonate resin cartridge that covers the disc, further protecting it from damage and data loss. The cartridge also promises to decrease the discs' sensitivity to dust and offers an estimated life span of more than 50 years, with the ability to be rewritten more than 10,000 times.

Sony currently has plans for at least three generations of Professional Disc products, with the goal of doubling capacity and performance with each release. The second-generation discs are expected sometime in 2005, featuring 50GB of storage capacity on a single-sided, double-layer disc with a transfer rate of 18MB per second. The company plans to release third-generation discs in 2007, with a projected storage capacity of 100GB using double-sided media and offering a transfer rate of 36MB per second.

Meanwhile, Sony has been working for about a year on creating a consumer-oriented Blu-ray disc that is made mostly of paper, with the goal of producing lower-cost discs with greater storage.

Sony is part of a group of companies called the Blu-ray Disc Founders that promote the Blu-ray Disc format. Others include Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsushita Electric Industrial, Pioneer, Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sharp and Thomson.

Another group, including Toshiba and NEC, has been working on a competing blue-laser disc technology designed to be compatible with current DVD standards.