2 New Blu-Ray Developments

Matsushita To Launch Blu-Ray Recorders In November

TOKYO, Sept 20 (Reuters) – Japan’s Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. said on Wednesday it would start selling two new Blu-ray DVD recorders in Japan on Nov. 15, heating up a format battle for next generation optical disc technology.
Matsushita, the maker of Panasonic brand products, belongs to a consortium that promotes the Blu-ray format against a competing standard called HD DVD, which is championed by Japanese electronics conglomerate Toshiba Corp.

At the core of both formats are blue lasers, which have a shorter wavelength than the red lasers used in current DVD equipment, allowing discs to store data at the higher densities needed for high-definition movies and television.

Electronics makers are hoping the spread of digital broadcasting and growing sales of flat screen TVs will help spur on demand for high-definition recording equipment, much like the introduction of the DVD gave the industry a boost in the 1990s.

“Expectations are increasing for a next-generation media that can record high-definition images and store them,” Shigenobu Hirahara, associate director of the corporate marketing division for Panasonic brand in Japan, told a news conference.

Matsushita said the November launch would make it the first to market with recorders that can also play back pre-packaged Blu-ray video discs, although Toshiba began selling a HD DVD player/recorder two months ago and Sony Corp. said last week that it planned to offer a Blu-ray recorder able to play back pre-packaged discs by the end of this year.

Matsushita said a recorder able to store 200 gigabytes of data on its hard drive would sell for about 240,000 yen ($2,045) and a 500 gigabyte model for 300,000 yen. The latter can store about 63 hours of terrestrial digital broadcasting.

It plans to produce 3,000 units of each model per month.

Matsushita said it had not decided when to launch the recorders overseas, but it plans to offer Blu-ray players in the United States later this month and in Europe in October where demand for playing DVDs is higher than recording TV programmes.

A shift to the new generation of DVD discs and machines is expected to help boost sales at electronics makers is expected to breathe life into the slowing home video market.

But the failure of the two competing groups to agree on a unified format has paved the way for a costly battle reminiscent of the VHS-Betamax war of the 1980s that caused widespread customer confusion.

Matsushita shares closed down 2.02 percent at 2,425 yen, underperforming a 0.98 percent fall in the Nikkei average.

($1=117.36 yen)

Hybrid HD DVD/Blu-Ray Disc Patented

LONDON (Reuters) – A patent application has been filed for a disc that would play two competing high-definition DVD formats which, if successful, could help appease a battle that has divided Hollywood and confounded consumers.

The patent application was filed by three Warner Bros. employees, two of whom are engineers for the company.

The “multilayer dual optical disk” would have one layer of data in the standard CD or DVD format, a second layer able to play one high-capacity format and a third layer for the competing high-capacity format.

Rival formats Blu-Ray, which is backed by Sony Corp., and Toshiba-supported HD-DVD both work using a blue-indigo laser beam but are not compatible with each other.

That is forcing consumers to pick one or the other, a situation that analysts predict will be alienating, and stifle growth for the next generation of DVDs that store more information and have better picture quality.

Hollywood studios have been choosing sides, each supporting one of the two formats. Some will produce films in both, in addition to the standard DVD format, which will increase costs. Electronics retailers also have balked at the situation.

“From the standpoint of a manufacturer, it is disadvantageous to have to manufacture and distribute three different types of disc formats to satisfy consumer demand for one product—such as a motion picture,” the inventors said in their patent application.

“Moreover, multiple formats of DVD discs create retail and consumer confusion as to which format(s) to acquire or buy,” they added.

NewScientist magazine reported about the patent application on its Web site on Tuesday.

Warner Bros. officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The studio, owned by Time Warner Inc., will be the first to sell a film in all three formats separately—both new high-definition formats and standard DVD—on the same day when it releases “The Lake House” starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock on September 26.

The patent application was filed by Wayne M. Smith, Alan Bell and Lewis S. Ostrover, who work for Warner Bros., according to an attorney who worked on it. Their corporate affiliations were not listed on the application filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in December and published last month.

Movies on a DVD are stored at different depths depending on the technology. Blu-ray discs store information only 0.1 millimeter from the surface while HD-DVD discs store it at 0.6 millimeters.

By using reflective films, the inventors say their disc would enable the lasers to read the top layer and “see through” to the lower one if necessary. Additional information also could be stored on the other side of the disc.

(Additional reporting by Lucas van Grinsven in Amsterdam and Georgina Prodhan in Frankfurt)

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~ by jpicune on September 20, 2006.

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