Toshiba could have access to Blu-ray drive technology

Toshiba may be far from giving up its battle with Sony to establish the successor of the DVD. But just in case Blu-ray may come out on top, Toshiba has an ace in its backhand: A joint-venture the company has founded with Samsung will be producing Blu-ray drives for delivery in the second quarter.

Samsung yesterday announced that it will begin selling its first Blu-ray recorder for PC in the second quarter of this year. However, that drive is not developed by Samsung itself, but rather by TSST Korea. The name TSST is fairly unknown in the industry, however, if one splits up this abbreviation - Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology - it is apparent that this manufacturer isn't your typical backyard company.

With Toshiba being the primary promoter of the HD DVD in the battle against Sony's Blu-ray technology, TSST could be key for Toshiba to stay in touch with the competing standard and offer such drives, if necessary.

TSST was founded in March of 2004 by Toshiba and Samsung as a joint venture. Toshiba holds 51% of the business, Samsung the remaining 49%. TSST Korea was founded in April of 2004 as a subsidiary of TSST.

TSST's first drive was a DVD-ROM drive and shipped in August of 2004. Since then, TSST has been a supplier of CD-ROM and DVD-ROM as well as CD writer and DVD burner drives for Toshiba and Samsung. Toshiba today appears to leverage TSST as one of its main disc drive developers and manufacturers and as a tool to access new trends, such as HP's LightScribe technology. At this time, Toshiba offers at least four drives that are being manufactured by TSST.

Asked about Toshiba's relationship with TSST, spokeswoman Junko Furuta told TG Daily that TSST is an "independent company" that Toshiba understands as developer of both formats in a "neutral position." But so far, TSST has been focused on products that were in line especially with Toshiba's product strategy: For example, the company announced a slim HD DVD drive last September. Even if TSST Korea seems to be focused on Samsung's needs, Toshiba may not run into serious problems to access the technology, if it ever came across demand for Blu-ray technology.

Furuta said that "at this moment Toshiba has no commercialization plan of Blu-ray products," but the neutrality of TSST could turn out as an unexpected trump. Just in case.