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Panasonic to release Blu-ray recorder

Machine set for Japan debut features Blu-ray Disc technology, a format vying with others to replace today's DVDs.

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

Matsushita Electric Industrial said its DMR-E700BD model, announced Wednesday and scheduled to hit the market July 31, in Japan, 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 digital high-definition programming or up to 63 hours of analog programming, Matsushita Electric said. The product is part of Panasonic's "DIGA" family.

"As digital broadcasting services are expanding, demand for recording and storing HD video is increasing. Our new product responds to such a demand," said a statement from Etsuji Shuda, a director at Panasonic AVC Networks. "We believe the upcoming Olympic Summer Games in Athens is one of the factors behind the expanding demands."

Blu-ray Disc technology, which uses 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 twice than amount in a dual-layer set up.

Blu-ray is supported by an array of companies including Sony, Pioneer and Hewlett-Packard. But it isn't alone in trying to replace the current generation of DVD products and accommodate the greater data volumes associated with high-definition programming. A rival technology called EVD has been developed in China, and the so-called HD DVD format is backed by Toshiba and NEC.

HD DVD recently got a boost from the DVD Forum standards body. 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 video tape standards, winning over content providers, especially movie studios, is seen as key.

Panasonic's new model is equipped with built-in tuners for a variety of signals, including terrestrial digital broadcasting, the company said. The new product also features an electronic program guide, designed to let users schedule recording of their favorite programs through on-screen guides.