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Even though only LG Electronics currently offers universal optical drives that can read both Blu-ray and HD DVD movies, hybrid high-definition players are still projected to dominate the market in several years, a research firm recently said.

“ABI Research expects high-definition drives to bring in revenues of about $2 billion by 2012. Of that, about two-thirds will be accounted for by universal drives, which can play either format. Few universal drives are sold today, partly because of their higher price. But those prices will fall to about the same as Blu-ray players by 2009, and we forecast universal player sales to exceed Blu-ray the following year,” said principal analyst of ABI Research Steve Wilson.

The prediction of ABI Research also stresses that the war between Blu-ray and HD DVD is far from its end and that even in the year 2012 there will be single-format high-definition optical disc drives available in addition to universal devices.

ABI Research believes that as personal computers get displays that support higher resolution and pack more processing power inside, it is inevitable that they will integrate optical disc drives that support modern optical media, such as Blu-ray or HD DVD. In fact, Sony and Toshiba said that either all, or the vast majority of their PCs, will integrate a new type of optical drive in 2008.

Despite of the fact that not all modern personal computers can playback Blu-ray and HD DVD movies due to the lack of enough processing power, ABI Research believes that shortly the problem will be solved.

“As with most new functions that originally require discrete processors, high-definition video processing will gradually be integrated with existing graphics chipsets, negating the need for a separate accelerator. Both Intel and AMD have integrated HD support in their roadmaps for 2008. So the market opportunity for standalone HD processors will be limited (as little as $25 million) and short-lived,” said Mr. Wilson.

Blu-ray and HD DVD formats compete for replacing the DVD standard. HD DVD discs can store up to 15GB on a single layer and up to 30GB on two layers. Its competitor, Blu-ray, can store up to 25GB per single layer and up to 50GB on two layers, but Blu-ray discs are more expensive to produce.

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