Matsushita to launch new Blu-ray DVD recorders

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Matsushita to launch new Blu-ray DVD recorders

Matsushita on Wednesday said it would start selling two new Blu-ray DVD recorders in Japan on Nov. 15, heating up the format battle with HD DVD for next-generation optical disc technology.

TOKYO - Japan's Matsushita Electric Industrial said on Wednesday it would start selling two new Blu-ray DVD recorders in Japan on Nov. 15, heating up a format battle for next-generation optical disc technology.

Matsushita, the maker of Panasonic brand products, belongs to a consortium that promotes the Blu-ray format against a competing standard called HD DVD, which is championed by Japanese electronics conglomerate Toshiba.

At the core of both formats are blue lasers, which have a shorter wavelength than the red lasers used in current DVD equipment, allowing discs to store data at the higher densities needed for high-definition movies and television.

Electronics makers are hoping the spread of digital broadcasting and growing sales of flat screen TVs will help spur on demand for high-definition recording equipment, much like the introduction of the DVD gave the industry a boost in the 1990s.

"Expectations are increasing for a next-generation media that can record high-definition images and store them," Shigenobu Hirahara, associate director of the corporate marketing division for Panasonic brand in Japan, told a news conference.

Matsushita said the November launch would make it the first to market with recorders that can also play back pre-packaged Blu-ray video discs, although Toshiba began selling a HD DVD player/recorder two months ago and Sony said last week that it planned to offer a Blu-ray recorder able to play back
pre-packaged discs by the end of this year.

Matsushita said a recorder able to store 200 gigabytes of data on its hard drive would sell for about 240,000 yen (US$2,045) and a 500 gigabyte model for 300,000 yen. The latter can store about 63 hours of terrestrial digital broadcasting.

It plans to produce 3,000 units of each model per month.

Matsushita said it had not decided when to launch the recorders overseas, but it plans to offer Blu-ray players in the United States later this month and in Europe in October where demand for playing DVDs is higher than recording TV programs.

A shift to the new generation of DVD discs and machines is expected to help boost sales at electronics makers and breathe life into the slowing home video market.

But the failure of the two competing groups to agree on a unified format has paved the way for a costly battle reminiscent of the VHS-Betamax war of the 1980s that caused widespread customer confusion.

Matsushita shares closed down 2.02 percent at 2,425 yen, underperforming a 0.98 percent fall in the Nikkei average Sony's stock lost 2.03 percent to 4,830 yen and Toshiba fell 2.39 percent to 777 yen.

(US$1=117.36 yen)

Aiko Hayashi

Copyright 2006 Reuters.


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