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Panasonic raises its DVR storage bar

A combo DVD-digital video recorder will have 50 percent more hard-drive capacity than its predecessors and longer recording times that could help the company hang onto its lead.

Panasonic is bumping up the storage limit in its line of combination DVD-digital video recorders, a promise of longer recording times that could help the company hang onto its market lead.

The consumer-electronics maker said Monday that its DMR-E100H device will feature a hard-drive capacity of 120GB, compared with a maximum of 80GB in earlier DVD-DVR hybrids. The device, set for release in August at a price of about $1,200, allows people to record live television shows to either the hard drive or to a DVD-RAM or DVD-R disc.

Panasonic, a North American unit of Japanese giant Matsushita, was among the first consumer-electronics makers to develop a combination DVD and DVR recorder. Its early move allowed it to become the leading seller of DVD recorders in the consumer-electronics market.

Key competitors in that niche include Philips and Pioneer. But unlike its rivals, Panasonic is backing older formats, DVD-RAM/-R. The others are pushing the DVD-RW/-R formats.

"No one else is pushing (DVD)-RAM, but Panasonic has the largest share for DVD recorders in the consumer-electronics market," said Danielle Levitas, an analyst with research firm IDC. Buyers will eventually decide which format will win, she added, pointing out that Japanese consumer electronics makers are supporting DVD-RW.

By the winter holidays, there will be many more products using dual-format, DVD+RW and DVD-RW, technology, Levitas predicted.

Worldwide shipments of DVD recorders reached 1.5 million in 2002 and should increase to more than 11 million in 2005, according to research firm In-Stat/MDR. Shipments are expected to rise significantly as manufacturers begin to add DVR features to their DVD-recording products.

Another expansion in the market could come from PC makers, which are incorporating DVD recorders and rewriters into desktops and notebooks. In the PC industry, makers of DVD recorders and rewriters tend to focus on improved performance to differentiate their products, while in the consumer-electronics market, manufacturers concentrate more price breaks, according to analysts.

In the past, the majority of DVD recorder sales have been made in Japan, according to Levitas, which has allowed early players to quickly gain leading positions in a relatively small market. In the future, however, most of the worldwide volume will come from the U.S. market, which manufacturers are expected to aggressively target in the holiday season.