The nine companies behind the Blu-ray Disc format have begun licensing the advanced optical disk technology to third party manufacturers.
License agreements, which will take the form of 10-year renewable contracts, are available to cover both the format and copy protection system. Player makers will have to pay $US20,000 to license Blu-ray while the content-protection system license will carry a $US120,000 annual fee and additional charge of $US0.10 per player.
Media makers will pay $US8000 annually and $US0.02 per disc for the copy protection system, which is licensed from developers Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic), Sony and Koninklijke Philips Electronics.
The beginning of licensing comes almost a year to the day since the nine companies, led by Sony and Philips Electronics, unveiled their solution for a next-generation optical disc-based video recording system.
Compared to CD or DVD systems that are based on red lasers, Blu-ray uses blue lasers that, because of their shorter wavelength, require a much smaller piece of disc space to store each bit of information. Combined with several other technologies, it means a 12cm disc can hold up to 27GB compared to DVD’s 9.4GB maximum capacity.
The technology is being targeted as a consumer format for recording of high-definition digital television and each disc can hold about two hours of such content.
While the beginning of licensing and the earlier disclosure of technical specifications both represent steps towards commercialisation of the system, there are still questions over whether consumers need the system.
High-definition television is yet to take off in many countries and even where there is broadcasting it is generally limited to a single or small handful of channels.
The six other companies with a hand in the technology are Hitachi, LG, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp and Thomson Multimedia.