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Tuesday, March 04, 2003
Sony unveils first Blu-ray recorder, on sale from April

Sony Corp. has taken the wraps off the first commercial consumer-use video recorder that uses blue-laser technology. The BDZ-S77 will go on sale in Japan next month. It is based on the Blu-ray optical disc format announced just over a year ago. The nine consumer electronics companies behind it are promoting it as a system for recording high-definition television broadcasts. The companies came up with the format because DVDs cannot hold enough data to be suitable for high-definition video...

Blu-ray uses a blue laser to record data on discs, while CD and DVD systems use red lasers. Blue lasers have a shorter wavelength -- 405 nanometers compared to around 650 nanometers on DVD systems -- and that means the laser beam can be focused onto a smaller area of the disc surface. In turn, this means less area is needed to store one bit of data and so more data can be stored on a disc.

The format is backed by Sony, Hitachi Ltd., LG Electronics Inc., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (Panasonic), Philips Electronics NV, Pioneer Electronics Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Sharp Corp. and Thomson Multimedia SA.

Sony's first generation recorder will land on Japanese retail shelves on April 10, at a price of ¥450,000 ($3,815). It looks similar to the prototype Blu-ray player that Sony showed at the Ceatec show in Japan last October.

To date, Sony has only talked in vague terms about Blu-ray recorders becoming available in 2003 and an April launch is a surprise, not only because Sony had given no hints that it was close to a commercial product but also because high-definition broadcasting, for which it was designed, has yet to take hold in Japan or anywhere else in the world. The BDZ-S77 has a built-in tuner for Japan's direct-to-home satellite broadcasting service which carries a high definition channel.

"We are starting to see potential in the market," said Shoko Yanagisawa, a spokeswoman for Sony. "There is a market demand from users wishing to make high-resolution recordings from satellite and from customers with home theater systems, large screen display products or digital high-definition televisions."

To support the new machine, Sony also announced its first generation Blu-ray media. Discs with a 23G-byte capacity will go on sale from April 10 priced at ¥3,500 ($30). There are three disc sizes specified in the initial Blu-ray format, and 23G bytes is the lowest-capacity and easiest to make of the three. The other capacities are 25G bytes and 27G bytes.

Recording is done in the MPEG-2 format, and the 23G-byte disc can store two hours of high-definition video at maximum quality, or four hours of standard-definition digital broadcasting. Up to 16 hours of lower quality analog terrestrial broadcasting can be stored.

The recorder is double the weight and a little thicker than one of Sony's first generation DVD video players launched in 1997. The Blu-ray recorder weighs an impressive 14 kilograms and measures 13.5 centimeters by 43 centimeters 39.8 centimeters.

Sony has no plans to launch the recorder overseas, Yanagisawa said.

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