Sony Drops DVD for Blu-ray Disc

Sony Corp. is increasing its bet on Blu-ray Disc and plans to ditch DVD and use the high-definition video disc format in all future digital video recorders in Japan, the company said Wednesday.

The announcement was made at the same time as Sony, the biggest backer of the technology, unveiled four new Blu-ray Disc video recorders. They include support for dual-layer discs -- something that was missing from models announced this time last year -- and can transcode video into the more efficient MPEG4 AVC format to increase recording time per disc.

A 50G-byte Blu-ray Disc typically holds just over 4 hours of HDTV when the over-the-air MPEG2 stream is recorded directly to the disc. By transcoding this stream to MPEG4 AVC it's possible to squeeze 16 hours of HDTV onto the same disc.

The four models are aimed at three different applications.

The BDZ-X90 is targeted at home cinema use and is capable of 1080p video output -- the highest quality of several video subsets that fall under the HDTV banner -- and "Deep Color" output. This latter feature should mean better colors when using a TV with support for the HDMI1.3 signal. The machine has a 500G-byte hard-disk drive.

The BDZ-L70 is focused on those with high-def camcorders and supports one-touch transfer of video from Sony Handycam camcorders. It has a lower capacity 250G-byte hard-disk drive.

Finally there are the BDZ-T50 and T70 machines aimed at people who want to record digital TV without other bells and whistles. The machines have 320G-byte and 250G-byte hard-disk drives respectively.

Other functions on all four machines include 4X Blu-ray Disc recording for fast transfer of TV shows from the hard-disk drive to disc, lossless HDMI audio output, compatibility with the AVCHD format used on many high-definition camcorders and Sony's Bravia Link and Bravia Premium Photo technologies.

The move to replace DVD isn't perhaps as much of a gamble as it might seem. The DVD recorder market is very competitive and it's becoming increasingly difficult for companies to make money in the sector. A switch to Blu-ray Disc takes Sony into a less competitive market place of higher price products.

But whether consumers will pay the extra money for HD recording will be seen in the coming months. The cheapest of the new recorders is expected to cost about %140,000 (US$1,226) compared to a street price of about %50,000 for the cheapest Sony DVD recorder currently available, the RDR-HX67.

The top-of-the-range X90 model will cost around %200,000, the L70 will cost about %180,000 and the T70 and T50 will cost %160,000 and %140,000 respectively, said Sony. They'll be available in Japan from Nov. 8 and are not scheduled for release overseas.

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