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Sony’s Blu-ray Set For Japan Debut In April

Sony will begin sales of the first blue laser high-definition optical disc recorder based on the Blu-ray disc format in Japan starting next month, the company announced here.

The Blu-ray deck (model BDZ-S77) will incorporate a satellite tuner and will be capable of storing up to two hours of high-definition TV programming on a single DVD-sized optical disc.

Sony said the deck would carry a suggested retail price of 450,000 yen ($3,800). In comparison, its multiformat standard definition red-laser DVD+RW/DVD-RW/-R recorder (RDR-GX7) will ship in the United States in June at an $800 suggested retail price.

The Japanese Blu-ray recorder will hit store shelves April 10. Sony has not announced plans for a U.S. version of the recorder.

The wavelength of blue laser is shorter than conventional red lasers, enabling it to read and store more densely compacted data on a disc.

By launching the Blu-ray deck at this time, Sony will have a jump start on companies planning to bring HDTV optical discs to market in a variety of competing formats, such as Toshiba’s previously announced Blue-laser technology and a red-laser-based HDTV disc being explored by Warner Studios and others.

Toshiba hopes to market its first blue laser recorder next year. That format will record up to 15GB-20GB of data per disc but is expected to be less expensive than rival Blu-ray systems. Sony will also beat its partners in the nine-company Blu-ray Consortium. Other manufacturing members of the Blu-ray group include Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsushita, Pioneer, Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung, Sharp and Thomson.

Sony said it will also market Blu-ray discs at 3,500 yen ($30) apiece on April 10.

Blu-ray discs hold up to 23GB of data, which is said to be enough for two hours of high-definition satellite-delivered programming.

Sony said its Blu-ray deck would be compatible with red-laser discs using the DVD video, DVD-R and DVD-RW formats. It will not play discs recorded in the standard definition DVD-RAM or DVD+RW formats.