Microsoft supports Blu-ray mastering in Windows; is Xbox next?

Finally giving up the last vestiges of its exclusive support for the HD DVD format, Microsoft has quietly launched a beta test of Windows-based mastering software for Blu-Ray discs.

Microsoft's new Image Mastering API update for Blu-Ray media is now available for download from the Microsoft Connect Web site as part of Windows Feature Pack for Storage, a software package in pre-release for Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Windows Server platforms.

The Blu-ray update offers the ability to do master-style optical burning on Blu-Ray media on Windows without the use of third-party software, according to information posted on the site.

The downloadable feature pack also contains pre-release editions of two other programs: a Smart Card Driver, with support for new form factors such as ICCD/CCID; and Active Storage Platform, for restricting access to portable devices such as USB Flash cards through certificate or password authentication.

But there's no clear indication yet, either on the site or elsewhere, as to whether the release of the Mastering API for Windows platforms might also signal a shift toward the Blu-ray bandwagon for Microsoft's Xbox 360 game console, which uses its own embedded OS.

Microsoft spokespersons who deal with these sorts of issues were temporarily unavailable today to answer that question. The company does note on its Connect site, though, that some of the technologies in the feature pack "require new hardware that may not be available."

According to information on the developers' site, Microsoft is releasing the beta "in order to get coverage on any legacy scenarios and install/uninstall scenarios."

Update ribbon (small)

4:05 pm EST August 19, 2008 - Minutes after the publication of this story today, Microsoft issued a statement to BetaNews continuing the company's policy of denying any plans to support Blu-Ray in the Xbox 360 game console. The company is still refuting any such intentions, despite the recent release of beta software from Microsoft supporting Blu-Ray disc mastering on Windows platforms.

"As we have stated, we have no plans to introduce a Blu-Ray drive for Xbox 360," a Microsoft spokesperson told BetaNews this afternoon. "Games are what drive consumers to purchase game consoles and we remain focused on providing the largest library of blockbuster games available."

When BetaNews asked about Microsoft's plans for Xbox earlier in the day, the appropriate spokespersons were unavailable for comment.

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