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Hard disks propelling DVD recorder growth in Japan

If trends continue, the video cassette recorder may be history. Reuters reports that digital video disc (DVD) recorders armed with hard disk drives are at the heart of a digital electronics boom sweeping Japan. The devices may soon replace the 50 million VCRs a year being sold globally.

“It really is convenient: I record shows on to the hard drive and erase them later or copy the stuff I want to keep on to DVDs,” Daisuke Kouno, a 25-year-old car mechanic and owner of a Pioneer DVD recorder with an 80-gigabyte hard drive, told Reuters.

Nomura Securities estimates the global DVD recorder market will reach $4.6 billion this year, while Pioneer estimates global demand to more than double next year to 8.24 million units from a forecast for 3.6 million units this year.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., maker of the Panasonic brand, Pioneer, and Toshiba Corp. gained an early advantage, but competitors at home and abroad are aggressively trying to close the gap with new products.

Sony aims to make a splash with its new PSX, an entertainment system that includes a DVD recorder with a hard disk drive plus a PlayStation 2 game machine and satellite TV tuner.

Japan accounts for nearly 60 percent of the world’s DVD recorder demand, Reuters reported, but electronics manufacturers expect the majority of sales in 2004 to come from North America and Europe.

In the United States, the world’s largest electronics market, most DVD recorder models come without a hard disk drive. Gateway introduced a $349 DVD recorder in November, joining Philips, Thomson, and Samsung Electronics to offer a basic DVD recorder in the U.S.

“DVD recorders are not selling so great in the United States. Obviously, price is one issue,” said Noboru Kawaguchi, Pioneer’s manager for DVD product planning.

Another factor has been the U.S. popularity of TiVo, the personal video recorder with a hard drive, which comes in 40-hour and 80-hour versions. TiVo has more than a million subscribers.

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