Hardware manufacturer Ricoh has developed a new optical drive capable of reading and writing several formats, including HD DVD, Blu-ray, CD, and DVD. The device will be demonstrated at the International Optoelectronics Exhibition later this month, and a read-only version could potentially be available to OEMs by the end of the year. A write-enabled version, which will require a more powerful laser than conventional optical disk recording devices, will hit the market at a later date.
In various optical disk formats, the data layer is positioned at different distances from the surface of the disk, a factor that contributes to the difficulty of supporting multiple formats in a single drive. Ricoh’s new optical drives use a special diffraction grating that can adjust the laser so that it can target the correct depth for each format. According to a Ricoh representative, this is the first drive that can handle all four major formats:
“This diffraction device is the first one that is ready for four formats, including BD and HD-DVD,” according to a spokesperson from Ricoh. “It will make it possible to build players and recorders ready for all formats, which will benefit consumers.”
Although pricing information is not yet available, it is likely that these new combo drives will be fairly expensive. With Blu-ray disk players selling for close to US$1,000, it will take some time for next-generation optical recording devices to become a mainstream option for desktop computers. Will we see PCs with a superdrive that supports four formats in the next couple of years? It is certainly possible, but with the rapidly decreasing cost of magnetic storage and the ongoing roll-out of fiber-optic bandwidth, the next generation optical formats could become an anachronism before they become ubiquitous.