Apple’s new Pro Macs, predicted to launch at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference next month, may feature a Blu-ray DVD drive.

Apple Insider is claiming to have learned that the Mac Pro case will include a second optical disc drive slot.

Could this new optical drive burn Blu-ray DVDs? Apple Insider suggests that it will ship empty, and that Mac users will be given the opportunity to fill it with a Blu-ray or HD DVD burner should they wish.

Apple is a member of the Blu-ray Disc Association board of directors.

According to the report, it is unlikely that there will be a radical redesign to the casing for the high-end Mac. Apple Insider claims that no change to the design was required because the current Power Mac casing is suited to the size of the logic board that accompanies the new Intel-based processor.

DVD war, background

The Blu-Ray Disc Association (BDA) promotes a new high-capacity standard based on a blue laser, compared to the red laser used to read today’s optical medial. Blu-Ray discs, known by the BD abbreviation (as in BD-ROM and BD-Video), pack up to 25GB on a single layer, and 50GB on dual-layer discs, in the same form factor as the familiar CD and DVD. That’s enough for two hours of HD video on a single-layer disc. Blu-Ray has an impressive list of backers that includes Sony, Disney, Dell, HP, Hitachi, LG Electronics (Goldstar), Matsushita (Panasonic), Mitsubishi, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, TDK, Thomson, Vivendi Universal (games) and Electronic Arts.

The important names missing from that list are Toshiba, NEC, Viacom, NBC Universal and Time Warner. They back the competing HD-DVD format that’s also based on a blue laser, but uses similar manufacturing techniques to DVD. The resulting discs are supposed to be less expensive, but they definitely hold less - 15GB per layer instead of Blu-Ray’s 25GB per layer.