Sony has increased 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 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 MPEG-4 AVC format to increase recording time per disc.
A 50GB Blu-ray Disc typically holds just over four hours of HDTV when the over-the-air MPEG-2 stream is recorded directly to 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 500GB 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 smaller 250GB hard-disk drive.
BDZ-T50 and T70 machines are aimed at people who want to record digital TV without other bells and whistles. The machines have 320GB and 250GB 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 ÂYEN 140,000 (US$1,226) compared to a street price of about ÂYEN 50,000 for the cheapest Sony DVD recorder available, the RDR-HX67.
The top-of-the-range X90 model will cost around ÂYEN 200,000, the L70 will cost about ÂYEN 180,000 and the T70 and T50 will cost ÂYEN 160,000 and ÂYEN 140,000 respectively, said Sony. They'll be available in Japan from November 8 and are not scheduled for release overseas.