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Japan says no to Blu-ray, HD DVD recorders for U.S.

Machines' high price, and belief that demand is relatively modest, will keep them out of U.S. market for now.

MAKUHARI, Japan--Blu-ray manufacturers and supporters of HD DVD high-definition DVD technology don't see eye to eye on a lot of issues, but there is one thing that they agree on: They don't want to sell high-definition recorders in the United States.

This week at Ceatec, a high-tech trade fair near Tokyo, Sony and Panasonic announced Blu-ray players that can also record shows.

Toshiba, the leader of the competing HD DVD camp, also showed off its home player-recorder. These devices will be sold only in Japan for now. All three companies said they don't have current plans to bring these products to the states.

Why? History is one reason. "In Japan, 80 (percent) to 90 percent of the demand for DVD players is for player-recorders," said Keisuke Ohmori, group manager of the international media relations group at Toshiba. The figure is a lot lower in the United States.

"In the U.S.A., you record on TiVo," he added.

Digital broadcasting is also catching on rapidly here. The country will be fully converted to digital broadcasting by 2011, later than in the U.S., but the popularity of the format is growing rapidly. Broadcasters have launched discussions to move the date forward, Ohmori said.

Broadcasting companies in Japan also started showing an ad on TV a few months ago, in which a popular singer croons a song about July 24, 2011, the official deadline for the conversion to digital, he added. The ad has generated interest among younger consumers.

Representatives from Sony and Panasonic echoed the notion that digital broadcasting is becoming more prevalent in Japan than in other parts of the world.

The high prices for these devices also militate against a worldwide launch in the near future. Panasonic's BW 200 and BW 100 Blu-ray recorders sell for 300,000 yen and 240,000 yen, respectively. That's about $2,500 and $2,200. Sony's player sells in the same price range.

Toshiba's player sells for 398,000 yen ($3,375), though HD players use less-expensive components. Ohmori, however, said that's because Toshiba puts 1 terabyte of hard-drive storage in its player-recorder. The drive on the most expensive Panasonic unit is half the size, at 500GB.

High-definition video gobbles up a lot of hard-drive space. A dual-layer Blu-ray disk with 50GB on it can hold six hours of HD video, a Panansonic representative said.