TOKYO Sony Corp (6758.T) said it will launch four models of new Blu-ray high-definition optical disc recorders in November in Japan, as its format battle with the HD DVD camp heats up.
Sony, along with Panasonic maker Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd (6752.T), promotes the Blu-ray technology, which competes with the HD DVD format, backed by Toshiba Corp (6502.T) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O).
The new models, capable of storing up to 16 hours of high-definition programmes on a dual-layer, 50-gigabyte (GB) Blu-ray disc, will go on sale on November 8.
Sony's previous models, launched last year, were unable to record on a dual-layer disc.
The top-end machine of the four, which comes with a 500-GB hard disk drive, is expected to sell for about 200,000 yen ($1,752), roughly in line with Toshiba's flagship HD DVD recorder.
"With high-definition TVs spreading rapidly and more digital cameras and camcorders are becoming HD-ready, time is ripe for household recorders to move onto a next generation," Sony Executive Deputy President Katsumi Ihara told a news conference.
"We intend to make all our recorders in the domestic market Blu-ray compatible," he said.
Blu-ray recorders can still handle conventional DVD discs.
Outside its home market, Sony is considering offering Blu-ray recorders in Europe, but the launch timing has yet to be decided.
Video rental chain Blockbuster Inc BBI.N, the largest U.S. provider of home movie entertainment, in June came out in favor of the Blu-ray format.
But Viacom Inc's VIAb.N Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc DWA.N signed exclusivity deals last month to distribute their next-generation discs on Toshiba's HD DVD format for the next 18 months, a move that evened a contest where Sony's Blu-ray disc appeared to be pulling ahead.
Sony had high hopes that its PlayStation 3 videogame console, which is equipped with a Blu-ray player, would give the Blu-ray camp an edge against the competing HD DVD format.
But the PS3 has lagged behind rival Nintendo Co Ltd's 7974.OS Wii in unit sales since their launches late last year due to the Sony machine's relatively high price and scarcity of strong game titles.
Shares in Sony were down 0.4 percent at 5,370 yen in late afternoon, underperforming the Tokyo stock market's electrical machinery index .IELEC.T, which rose 0.4 percent.