Pioneer Rolls Out Blu-Ray DVD Burner

Pioneer Electronics Inc. on Tuesday unveiled a high-definition Blu-ray DVD disc drive for personal computers in the latest twist in a multibillion dollar battle over next-generation DVD standards.

Pioneer is part of the Blu-ray consortium, led by Sony Corp., which is vying against a rival high-definition format known as HD-DVD, championed by Toshiba Corp.

Both camps are hoping the next-generation discs and players, set to be introduced to consumers in 2006, will help offset a slowdown in the $19 billion prepackaged disc market.

Hollywood studios are expected to announce names and dates of title releases for the new DVDs at the upcoming Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, where consumer electronics makers are also set to release launch details.

But failure of the two camps to agree on a unified standard has overclouded the launches and set the stage for a format battle much like the VHS-Betamax war, which led to customer confusion and losses for Hollywood.

Pioneer Electronics, a unit of Pioneer Corp., said on Tuesdayanay the new Blu-ray disc drive was aimed primarily at professional users like content creators or studios, who can use it to test and evaluate Blu-ray disc titles during the authoring process before replication.

"Studios need to now get in the process of getting things ready and this will help them and the companies they hire. Anybody tasked with content creation has been calling us," Andy Parsons, senior vice president at Pioneer Electronics, told Reuters.

Additionally, people with a TV tuner on their PCs could use the drive to record high definition TV shows and use it to view movie titles on Blu-ray discs as well as standard DVD media.

Analyst Richard Doherty with Envisioneering said that in the first year that standard DVDs were sold in 1997, personal computers accounted for 70 percent of DVD players sold.

"In 1997, a handful of consumer electronic players were being sold at between $600 to $1,000 dollars each, yet the PC add-ons were being sold for almost half the price," he said.

"Within two years, consumer players took over... but PCs still make up one-third of the DVD players sold," he said.

Doherty said he expects PCS will play a key role in consumer adoption of the next-generation DVDs.

Industry watchers expect Toshiba to launch notebook PCs with HD DVD drives in the spring of 2006. HD-DVD has also won endorsements from Intel Corp. (INTC) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), which believe HD DVD is superior to Blu-ray because it is more easily integrated with personal computers.

The Blu-ray group in November said it would not adopt a technology proposed by Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) that the No. 2 PC maker considered important to PC users, prompting Hewlett-Packard earlier this month to say it would work with the HD-DVD Group as well as Blu-ray.