Sony next month will announce that it developed an eight-layer version of the Blu-ray Disc capable of storing 200GB of data.

The announcement will be made at the International Symposium on Optical Memory 2004, from October11 to October15, in Jeju Island, South Korea, according to Sony. The company further plans to commercialize a four-layer 100GB version in 2007, said Sony spokesman Taro Takamine.

"The advantage of Blu-ray over DVD is definitely capacity and we are extending our multilayer performance. The eight-layer is a technology demonstration. We haven't decided when we are going to commercialize it yet," Takamine said.

Storage drives digital age

The development is the fourth recent boost for the format as it wrestles with HD-DVD (high definition-DVD) to replace conventional DVDs in coming years. Both Sony and Matsushita Electric, better known for its Panasonic brand, sell Blu-ray players.

They are expensive. A mass market will not develop for either of the new formats until major Hollywood studios are convinced that they can protect their content against piracy, according to analysts and industry watchers.

At the beginning of September, Blu-ray Disc backers announced that they added the MPEG-4 and VC-1 video codecs to the format, making for more efficient compression, meaning longer movies and more data can be stored on the same disc. VC1 is based on Microsoft's Windows Media 9 codec, and was previously called VC9. MPEG-4.AVC is based on the H.264 codec.

Play the game

Last week, Sony announced that it bought MGM, potentially gaining access to and control of that studio's movie library. On Tuesday, Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEI) said it would adopt Blu-ray for its PlayStation 3 games console. The PlayStation 3 should reach the market by mid-2006, according to industry watchers.

The adoption of Blu-ray Disc for PlayStation 3 is seen as a major advancement for the format by Sony, because of the success of PlayStation and PlayStation 2 in promoting the adoption of DVD, Takamine said. PlayStation 3 will probably have compatibility with the 54GB version of the Blu-ray Disc, which can store about six times more data than a current DVD, according to Sony. The PlayStation 3 could be compatible with smaller-capacity Blu-ray Discs, according to SCEI.