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Sony to launch Blu-ray Vaio PCs in mid-year

Unveiled at the CeBit show

Sony is planning to launch desktop and laptop PCs with Blu-ray Disc drives in the middle of this year, an executive said at the CeBit trade show in Hannover today.

The first computers to feature Blu-ray Disc drives will be high-end models aimed at multimedia use, but over time the technology will trickle down to other models, said Tasuku Yazaki, general manager of Sony's Vaio product planning department. The machines will be launched worldwide at around the same time, he said – without revealing any more details of the products.

Players and computer drives for Blu-ray, an optical disc format that boasts a storage capacity of 25GB on a single-layer disc the size of a CD, are due out in the coming months.

The first consumer Blu-ray Disc players are due on 23 May, when Samsung launches a player. On the same day Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Lionsgate Films will launch several films on Blu-ray Disc.

But the future of the market is far from certain. A competing format, HD-DVD, is also about to be launched, offering many of the same benefits, so users will be faced with choosing one of two competing formats or putting off a purchase until a dominant format has emerged.

Executives from the Blu-ray Disc Association talked up their format at CeBit on Thursday and supporting companies announced hardware launch plans. Pioneer previewed an upcoming Blu-ray Disc drive for computers and both Panasonic and Philips said they would launch consumer players in the second half of this year.

Philips said its computer drive, the SPD700, will be available in the US in the second half of 2006 and will be able to write to recordable BD-R and rewritable BD-RW media in addition to DVD and CD formats. No price was given for the drive.

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