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Panasonic to release Blu-ray recorder

Panasonic’s parent company is set to release a DVD recorder based on the Blu-ray Disc format. The product introduction comes as a standards battle over next-generation DVD technology heats up.

Matsushita Electric Industrial last week announced that its DMR-E700BD model, will go on sale in Japan July 31. The device supports single-side, dual-layer Blu-ray Discs with a maximum capacity of 50GB. The new machine is capable of recording up to 4.5 hours of HD programming or up to 63 hours of analog programming.

Blu-ray Disc technology, using blue-laser light, allows for much greater capacity than today’s DVDs, which rely on red lasers and can hold 4.7GB on a single layer and close to double that amount in a dual-layer setup. Several major companies, such as Sony, Pioneer and Hewlett-Packard support Blu-ray.

A rival technology, called HD DVD format is backed by Toshiba and NEC. The DVD Forum standards body for the next-generation DVD technology recently selected their technology. The forum’s steering committee approved version 1.0 of the physical specifications for HD DVD read-only discs, which was seen as giving manufacturers a green light to begin producing devices.

In a contest that echoes the VHS-Betamax war over videotape standards that began in the 1970s, winning over content providers, especially movie studios, is key. Panasonic’s new model is equipped with built-in tuners for a variety of signals, including terrestrial digital broadcasting. The new product also features an electronic program guide, designed to let users schedule recording of their favorite programs on-screen.

A third new format, EVD, has been developed with the help of the Chinese government. EVD is currently in production in China, where most of the world’s DVD players are manufactured.

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