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Sony's Blu-ray notebook arriving next week

If you've got $3,500 to spare and want to see the latest in high-tech movies, Sony has the laptop for you. Photo: Sony's Blu-ray Vaio

Sony will release a notebook next week with a built-in Blu-ray Disc drive for playing movies and recording video in high definition.

The Sony Vaio AR Premium will cost $3,500. Along with a Blu-ray drive, the notebook will come with an Intel Core Duo processor, 1GB of memory, a 17-inch screen and a complimentary copy of the movie "House of Flying Daggers" in the Blu-ray format. Sony is taking preorders for the computer on its site.

Sony's Blu-ray Vaio

Meanwhile, Vaio AR notebooks with a DVD burner instead of a Blu-ray player will start at $1,800.

The launch of the Blu-ray-enabled notebook will mark Sony's commercial push into the high-definition disc wars. By the end of June, the company will also release the RC300 desktop, a multimedia PC that will come with a Blu-ray drive.

Meanwhile, Sony will begin to take preorders for its BDP-S1 Blu-ray player on Aug. 15, said a Sony representative. The unit will officially come out when Sony releases a new line of Bravia flat-screen TVs and Grand Wega projection TVs around late August and early September.

Previously, the BDP-S1 was due to come out in July.

The Japanese electronics giant, which is in the middle of a fashioning a comeback, will also put a Blu-ray player in the PlayStation 3 game console, which will start at $499 but won't come out until later in the year. The PlayStation 3 price is also subsidized in part by Sony, which hopes to make up the difference in game sales.

Sony, Philips, Samsung and others are promoting Blu-ray as the format for replacing DVDs for playing, storing and recording movies. While Blu-ray discs hold more than discs based on the rival HD DVD standard, Blu-ray equipment costs more than HD DVD equipment.

Toshiba has already released an HD DVD player that sells for just under $500. Still, analysts say the prices on players and drives based on both standards will drop over time.

So far, consumers have expressed wariness about buying players based on either standard out of fear of being stuck with the one that gets abandoned. Although it's technically possible to make a single player that can play Blu-ray and HD DVD discs, the licensing and legal restrictions make it difficult for companies to come out with dual players.

South Korea's LG Electronics has said it will come out with a player that can handle both kinds of discs, but most companies are for the moment sticking with one format or another. (Royalties matter here. Sony, Philips and some of the others that contributed intellectual property to the Blu-ray standard stand to earn millions in licensing fees and the same is true for the HD DVD camp.)

To get around the problem, some PC makers will sell computers with either kind of drive.

The Blu-ray drive in AR Premium records is high definition, but it records video from camcorders. Sony, like other Blu-ray manufacturers, is working to prevent these machines from becoming vehicles for piracy.