Coming Soon: Sony Blu-ray Recorder

Sony Corporation has beaten its competitors off the starting line again.

Just two weeks after a consortium of electronics companies announced that they would begin signing licensing agreements for "Blu-ray" technology, Sony announced that it would begin selling the world's first high-definition DVD recorders in April.

Blu-ray technology is based on the use of blue lasers, rather than the standard infrared. The shorter wavelength of blue light allows for much higher data packing on a recordable DVD—enough to record a two-hour high-definition TV program on a single disc. A Blu-ray recorded DVD could contain 23 gigabytes of data.

Sony Blu-ray recorders will go on sale in Japan, with no firm date established for a North American retail debut. The company's first model will sell for ¥450,000, or approximately $3800. Sony executives believe there will be a huge market for such machines in the near future, as high-definition television programming becomes more widely available.

In the US, satellite services EchoStar and DirecTV provide the bulk of HD signals, with many local stations offering up to 25 hours per week of shows in the format via over-the-air broadcasts. Cable providers have promised to begin offering HDTV, but have slow to deliver. "The market has already been established," said Sony spokeswoman Shoko Yanagisawa. "Although it's still looking for direction, there will be a growing number of users who want high-definition recording." The Sony Blu-ray recorder includes a built-in broadcast satellite tuner.

On February 17, the Blu-ray consortium announced a final agreement on Blu-ray specifications and the impending issue of licensing agreements, structured as renewable ten-year contracts. The nine companies—Hitachi, Ltd.; LG Electronics, Inc.; Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.; Pioneer Corporation; Royal Philips Electronics; Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.; Sharp Corporation; Sony Corporation; and Thomson—believe that high-definition recording "will enable the enjoyment of even greater picture quality within the home," according to a group press release. Information for manufacturers is available here and via email.