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Royal Philips Electronics Tuesday said it would showcase the world’s first commercial optical drive that can play compact discs, digital video discs and blu-ray discs at Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, Nevada later during the week.

The drive, that can read, record and re-write CDs and DVDs as well as play Blu-Ray discs, will be demonstrated during the CES show in the USA, but will only hit the market in the second half of the year, as expected. Furthermore, the drive is unlikely to be in mass demand until sometime in 2006, when film studios release their movies on Blu-Ray discs.

Philips’ new optical drive features three types of lasers, including one so-called blue-laser that has shorter wave-length allowing to read physically smaller bits of information.

Blu-ray, also known as Blu-ray Disc (BD) is the name of a next-generation optical disc format jointly developed by thirteen leading consumer electronics and PC companies, such as Dell, Hitachi, HP, LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, TDK and Thomson. The format was developed to enable recording, rewriting and playback of high-definition television (HDTV). Blu-ray makes it possible to record over 2 hours of HDTV, or more than 13 hours of SDTV on a 27GB disc. There are also plans for higher capacity discs that are expected to hold up to 54GB of data, according to Blu-Ray.com web-site.

The Blu-ray Disc Founders approved the BD-ROM physical specification in August, 2004, providing disc manufacturers with the information they need to prepare their BD-ROM (Blu-Ray Discs Read Only Memory) disc production lines.

Originally it was expected that BD-ROMs would be available only in 2006. Sony Entertainment said it would use BD-ROM in its next-generation Sony PlayStation 3 console, which may popularize Blu-Ray discs and rapidly drive them into mainstream market.

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