Fri, Jun 09, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Asustek to launch first Blu-ray DVD burner in July


Taiwanese electronics maker Asustek Computer Inc (華碩電腦) is planning to launch its first Blu-ray digital video disk (DVD) burner, which allows consumers to record and watch high-definition digital videos on computers, next month, raising the stakes in the escalating war on DVD formats.

The competition between Blu-ray and High-definition (HD) DVD for the next-generation DVD format is set to fire up as more products from both camps are scheduled to hit the stores next month.

"We are bullish about Blu-ray because of its bigger storage and wider bandwidth that caters to users' growing need to access multimedia data," said Tommy Lo (羅國晉), an Asustek product manager, in an interview with the Taipei Times at the Computex trade show in Taipei.

Lo said that a Blu-ray burner can hold around 50 gigabytes of high-definition video or data, or 20 hours of viewing content, and provide twice the bandwidth that HD-DVD-based burners offer.

However, the high price tag could make it a tough start for Blu-ray-based storage makers, Lo said.

A Blu-ray burner is priced at around US$700, compared with less than US$100 for an HD-DVD burner, according to Lo.

Blu-ray has wider support among consumer electronics manufacturers, including Sony Corp, Sanyo Electronics and other big names. HD-DVD is spearheaded by Toshiba Corp and recently gained support from Microsoft Corp and Intel Corp.

HD-DVDs aren't compatible with Blu-ray players and vice-versa. The red-ray drives now commonly used in computers can only hold about 7.8 gigabytes, or three hours, of data with lower viewing quality.

Taking a safer path, BenQ Corp (明基) unveiled a hybrid burner, which can run both Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs in standard desktop computers.

BenQ plans to introduce a new hybrid model for consumers to connect to their televisions, or computers in mid-August, a company staff member said at the Computex show.

Acer Inc, the world's No. 5 computer brand, is even more cautious about the future of DVD products.

"We are not in a hurry to back any format now. We will see how market demand develops and ship products accordingly," said an Acer product manager, who requested not to be named, at the computer show.

As it's not easy for end users to detect the small difference between the two formats, the product manager said, "it would be difficult for consumers to plunk down big money on those cutting-edge products."

Acer, however, showcased a computer-based device, with an innovative design that is markedly different from a traditional desktop. The device can work like a media center, featuring an HD-DVD drive and multimedia access.

However, unlike most media centers introduced by other local companies, the product does not support Intel Corp's ViiV platform.

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