Sanyo opts for HD-DVD, will produce players

Sanyo has decided to produce both components and players for HD-DVDs (High Definition/High Density-DVDs), citing the format's ease of manufacturing, the company said on Tuesday.

Sanyo has become the third major Japanese digital consumer products maker to side with new format, joining NEC and Toshiba. Sanyo plans to make a series of components for HD-DVD players, including optical pick components, Ryan Watson, a Sanyo spokesman, said Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Toshiba and NEC announced that they planed to launch HD-DVD hardware during 2005. Toshiba plans to release a home player and possibly a recorder. NEC said it plans a drive for use with computers.

Watson said that Sanyo has a 40-percent share of the global market for optical pickups. While the company isn't a major maker of DVD recorders, it plans to release an HD-DVD player for the Japanese market in 2005, followed by a release in the U.S.

After studying both HD-DVD and the rival Blu-ray Disc format , Sanyo opted for HD-DVDs because the technology is compatible with current DVDs, Watson said.

Advocates of the HD-DVD format say their production process is nearly the same as that for DVDs. They say that converting production from DVDs to HD-DVDs is simple and that HD-DVDs can be made at about the same price as DVDs.

Memory-Tech, one of Japan's largest optical disc makers, recently demonstrated HD-DVD discs production at a rate that meant it could be producing the discs at near-DVD prices in about one year from now.

"We've taken a look at both of them and come down on HD-DVD," Watson said. "What is attractive about HD-DVD is that it is similar to DVDs, and as far as the manufacturing process is concerned, we can keep the same lines," he said.

Sanyo hasn't ruled out participating in Blu-ray at least at a components level, according to Watson.

"We looked at Blu-ray, but there were compatibility issues. Down the line, it is possible that we could supply components for Blu-ray," he said.

Blu-ray comes from a group of companies led by Sony. It includes Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic), Mitsubishi Electric, Philips Electronics, Pioneer Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sharp, TDK and Thomson Multimedia. Blu-ray Discs use a new structure requiring new production lines, which will drive up costs, at least initially.

Both Sony and Matsushita already have Blu-ray players on the market. Sony launched the first commercial Blu-ray recorder last year.

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Paul Kallender

IDG News Service
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