Acer, China Huala Group join Blu-ray Disc camp

Supporters of the Blu-ray Disc format came to Berlin armed with key announcements to underscore their commitment to the next-generation movie disc.

The announcements included a flood of new Blu-ray Disc releases, a decision by Acer Inc. and China Huala Group Co. Ltd. to join as hardware partners and the establishment of a Blu-ray Disc authoring center in China. They were made Thursday at a news conference organized by the Blu-ray Disc Association at the IFA consumer electronics show.

Among some of the big-name movies to appear in the Blu-ray Disc format in the coming weeks are "Spider Man" from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, "300" from Warner Home Video and a special edition of "Sleeping Beauty" from The Walt Disney Co.

"We've been involved with Blu-ray Disc from the very beginning," said Stephen Foulser, vice president of marketing and business development for Disney in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region. "We will be launching 30 new titles in the format."

More than 300 movie titles are currently available in the Blu-ray Disc format, a number that studios plan to nearly double by the end of the year, according to David Walstra, vice chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Association. Eight manufacturers of consumer electronic products are now on board, he said.

The number of studios supplying content and manufacturers building players are key to the take-up of any new disc format, according to Danny Kay, executive vice president of research and development at 20th Century Fox. Based on the numbers of both of these groups, "the market for Blu-ray Disc is very compelling" he said. "We believe Blu-ray Disc is really the only way to go."

Kay declined to comment on the decision of Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation to throw their support behind rival HD DVD, saying only that both studios had access to the same market data as Fox and the other studios.

On the device front, Acer will join Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Lenovo Group Ltd. as contributing members to the Blu-ray Disc Association, said Walstra, a Sony executive who is also deputy chairman of the association.

Huala, a major manufacturer of consumer electronic products in China and supplier of content, has also agreed to become a contributing member, according to Walstra. In addition, the company will team with the China Film Group to establish a Blu-ray Disc authoring center in China, he said.

None of the industry executives associated with the Blu-ray Disc Association were prepared to answer a question on whether the expansion into China could lead to greater concerns about software piracy

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