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Ultra-Thin Blu-ray Drive Released

Panasonic will debut the drive, only 0.37 of an inch thick, next month at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Panasonic has started shipping samples of an ultra-thin Blu-ray disc drive for lightweight notebooks.

The consumer electronics maker said in a statement released Wednesday in Japan that the built-in optical drive, which is 0.37 of an inch thick, will be shown Jan. 7 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Previously, Panasonic's thinnest Blu-ray disc drive was a half-inch thick.

The new drive is capable of reading and burning high-definition DVDs in the Blu-ray format. It also supports reading and writing standard DVDs and CDs, and can store 50 Gbytes of content.

Panasonic has slimmed down a standard DVD disc drive to 0.28 of an inch thick. Toshiba has said that it plans to release an equally thin drive for reading and writing DVDs in the HD DVD format, which competes with Blu-ray.

Ultra-thin disk drives make it possible for notebook makers to build even lighter and slimmer products. The drives could also find a place in even small ultra-mobile PCs.

Panasonic has other Blu-ray disc drives. Last summer, the company became one of the first to introduce a drive with a 4x writing speed. The latest drive is 2x.

Toshiba this month released the first notebook with a rewritable HD DVD drive, which could be used to transfer recorded TV shows or video taken with a high-definition camera onto a DVD for archiving. The Qosmio Series 2 comes in 17- and 15.4-inch models, and is capable of receiving two TV channels simultaneously, so people can watch one show while recording the other. Pricing for the notebooks starts at about $2,600.

HD DVD, supported by Microsoft and Toshiba, competes with Blu-ray, a format whose major supporters include Sony. The latter company ships a Blu-ray disc player in the PlayStation 3 video game console.

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