Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. today (June 30) unveiled a large-capacity optical disc recorder that can record 4.5 hours of digital high-definition TV programs on a single disc using "Blu-ray" tec

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. today (June 30) unveiled a large-capacity optical disc recorder that can record 4.5 hours of digital high-definition TV programs on a single disc using "Blu-ray" technology -- one of two rival next-generation DVD formats.

The product is the world's first DVD recorder compatible with "dual-layer" Blu-ray discs that have a recording capacity of 50 gigabytes, about 10 times as large as that of current DVDs, says Matsushita, the Japanese maker of the Panasonic brand of audiovisual products.

The company will begin domestic sales of the recorder on July 31, though it doesn't yet have a plan to launch the product overseas, it says.

Matsushita's launch of the cutting-edge device is a major strike in the already-raging battle over the high-definition successor to the current generation of DVDs.

Toshiba Corp. and NEC Corp. are also promoting HD (high- definition) DVDs -- a new optical disc format that they jointly developed. Toshiba plans to introduce a home-use HD DVD disc recorder next year.

Blu-ray technology is endorsed by leading electronics makers around the globe, including Sony Corp., Samsung Electronics Co., Royal Philips Electronics NV, and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Matsushita's Blu-ray disc recorder also supports currently available DVD-RAM and DVD-R discs. The new recorder is equipped with built-in tuners that can receive all three kinds of digital broadcasting services in Japan -- broadcast satellite (BS), 110-degree communications satellite (CS110) and terrestrial digital broadcasting.

The addition of these tuners and the dual-layer disc technology are the key features that differ from Sony's Blu-ray disc recorder, Matsushita says.

In April 2003, Sony launched the world's first Blu-ray disc recorder in Japan. Sony's recorder has a BS digital broadcasting tuner and uses a single-layer Blu-ray disc with a recording capacity of 23 gigabytes.

Matsushita says it estimates the retail price of its Blu-ray disc recorder will be around ¥300,000 ($2,754). That is much lower than the suggested retail price of Sony's recorder, ¥472,500 ($4,338).


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