Philips Electronics has announced an optical disk drive for computers that can burn and play CDs, DVDs and the Blue-ray standard from Sony.

The announcement comes ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas at the end of the week and will be a big boost for Sony in its battle to with Toshiba and its HD DVD format.

The prototype drive, scheduled to be shipping in the second half of this year, uses a triple-laser optical pick-up unit in which separate infra-red, red and blue lasers share the same optical pathway to provide Blu-ray Disc read/write capabilities as well as read/write compatibility with DVD and CD. According to Philips, the technology is based "on a flexible architecture" allowing future speed improvements.

Philips is apart of the consortium alongside Dell, Sony and HP backing the Blu-ray disk which is capable of storing 50Gb of data on one disc.

Film studios were expecting a drive capable of playing the Blue-ray standard for another year.