Clever old Ricoh have announced that they have developed the diffraction plate - an optical component that reads from and writes to all disk formats - Blu-ray Disc, HD-DVD, DVD and CD - all using one pickup and one objective lens. This is great news for consumers as this will mean we will be able to buy a drive that is capable of reading from and writing to all formats – a great thing since it’s likely that these format wars will rage for some time to come before we have an eventual winner. The magic component in question is a 3.5-mm diameter, 1-mm thick round diffraction plate which has tiny concentric groves on both sides. The diffraction plate sits between lasers and an objective lens, and is designed to adjust a light beam to an optimum incident ray, focussing the light on the correct position for each disk format.

"This diffraction device is the first one that is ready for four formats, including BD and HD-DVD," according to a spokesperson from Ricoh. "It will make it possible to build players and recorders ready for all formats, which will benefit consumers."
Now to the bad news... the price. It is to be expected that these devices will be expensive. With Blu-ray disk players selling for close to US$1,000, these multi-format drives are more than likely to be even more pricey. Oh, and don’t expect them to be rushed out into stores any time soon either.