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In a bid to popularize Blu-ray discs (BDs) among users of personal computers (PCs), Pioneer is readying a new optical drive capable of reading BDs and recording conventional optical discs. The company said the new drive will be sold at competitive price-point, something, crucially needed to make high definition formats more widespread.

The Pioneer BDC-202 drive can playback, read, record and re-write DVDs (12x speed for DVD±R, 6x for DVD±RW, 4x for DVD±R DL) as well as playback and read single- and dual-layer Blu-ray discs (5x for BD-ROM and BD-R/-RE, 2x for BD-R DL/-RE DL), it also can playback and record CDs. It is unclear whether the new drive is meant for outdated Parallel ATA or contemporary Serial ATA interface.

“Blu-ray is in pole position to capture demand for HD movies: it’s supported by seven out of the eight major Hollywood studios. We’ve ensured that BDC-202 is price competitive to existing next generation drives so systems builders can enable consumers to access this extensive catalogue of Blu-ray titles in stunning quality,” said Chris Tampsett, director, Pioneer Europe multimedia division.

Pioneer was one of the first companies to launch its BDR-101A/BDR-101ABK burner for Blu-ray discs and other optical media. However, with the price tag of around $1000, that device could never become popular among consumers, but was rather aimed at professionals. This time Pioneer stresses “competitive price-point” and targets BDC-202 at mass market. The internal BDC-202 computer drive will be sold to OEMs and systems builders. It will be available from the second quarter of 2007.

“With DVD and CD read/write compatibility, the drive provides a compelling mix of high-quality entertainment and practicality. We anticipate that it will lead the emergence of the Blu-ray format for both professional and personal use on computers,” Mr. Tampsett added.

Blu-ray disc fiercely competes with HD DVD format to replace conventional DVD in future. While Blu-ray offers larger storage space for content, HD DVD drives and discs are easier and cheaper to produce.

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