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Panasonic Unveils Blu-Ray Drives for PCs

Matsushita Electronics, which is best known for its Panasonic brand, has been renowned for its consistent support and pushing of the Blu-ray disc format. Just like Sony Corp., Panasonic has no compromises when it comes to the HD DVD, but in the light of the absence of the latter from CeBIT show this year, it was really interesting to see whether the second largest promoter of the Blu-ray tech is ready with actual products.

At the show the company demonstrated a lineup of its Blu-ray optical drives for personal computers. One was 5.25” drive for desktops or workstations, two others were for either small form-factor PCs or notebooks. We’ve heard from some sources that all of them are going to mass production in the Q2 2006, or, Q3 2006, at the latest; but so far it is unclear when and whether Panasonic itself plans to install Blu-ray drives into its notebooks. Given that Matsushita supplied its optical drives for IBM mobile PCs sometime ago, it will be very interesting to see whether Lenovo integrates Blu-ray devices into the ThinkPad laptops this year.

In addition to its new-generation optical drives, Panasonic demonstrated its already announced recordable and rewritable Blu-ray discs, which are already not something new.

This year Panasonic did not demonstrate its Blu-ray disc recorder that it sells in Japan , but showcased its new BD player for the living rooms with HDMI output. The player is small and sleek, but currently no one have an idea when such a player will be available on the mass market and for which price. Moreover, even such a large company as Panasonic has only one player for the Blu-ray discs.

Certainly the latest plasma television from the company, which is about 2.5 meters in diagonal, with 1080p resolution was also showcased.

So, the Blu-ray situation is very unclear, especially in the light of the fact that Sony pushed back the release of the PlayStation 3 console that features the technology.

Apart from the lack of content for the Blu-ray, there is also, at least, one significant factor that may hold Blu-ray from quickly gaining market share. The Blu-ray electronics and media are harder to produce compared to contemporary DVD or even the HD DVD products. New equipment required to manufacture appropriate devices and media needs to be tuned up so to gain acceptable yields. The problem of the low yields is not only in high manufacturing costs, but it means that you produce lower amount of devices and lose market share to your competitors, who can produce more. At the end, the companies will be trying to choose the right time to start mass production of their new generation devices as precisely as possible.  
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