Sony’s Blue Laser

Among many new product announcements expected this week at the Association of Information and Image Management Conference in New York from today until April 9, Sony Electronics unveiled a new internal blue laser optical data storage disc drive and disc media that enable the recording of 23.3GB of data per disc and a transfer rate of 9 MB/sec.

Slated for the high-end business consumer market by summer, the 5.25-inch drives will carry a price tag of around $3,000 each and are designed for data-intensive applications, graphics design, document and medical imaging, email archiving, content management, and multimedia projects.

Developed in Japan around 1993, the blue-light emitting diode (based on gallium nitride), opened the way for the production of short-wavelength (about 16nm) blue laser optical devices. Philips, Sony and Toshiba demonstrated the blue laser in 1996 — although heating problems precluded its immediate use in small devices. Obviously, since the blue laser will make smaller pits and use narrower tracks — disc capacities increase even more. Current red lasers are at 600+ nanometers.

Sony’s new blue laser optical disc products are aimed at the storage user market whose needs have surpassed the capacity of the 9.1 GB magneto-optical, the company said.

The discs have an Ultra-wide 160 SCSI interface, and according to Sony, an airtight structure to prevent dust particles from coming into contact with the drive mechanism and disc surface.

The blue laser discs will also support rewritable media and ‘write-once read many media.’

A Sony spokesperson said the company expects to release a second-generation drive and media by 2005 that will feature 50 GB of capacity with a transfer rate of 18 MB/sec.

Eventually, the spokesperson added, Sony will manufacture a disc drive and media featuring 100 GB of capacity with a transfer rate of 36 MB/sec.

In the disc drive space, Sony also came out this week with two new Dual RW drives, the internal DRU-510A and the external DRX-510UL, which are the first combination drives for the PC that support the DVD+RW, DVD+R, DVD-RW, and DVD-R formats.

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