Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. said Wednesday it will release on July 31 a next-generation DVD recorder that can record high-definition TV programs.

The product, to be released under the Panasonic brand, will be the second recorder with the Blu-ray Disc format to hit the market following one launched by Sony Corp. in April 2003.

Blu-ray is one of two next-generation formats. It is promoted by Matsushita and Sony, while the HD DVD format is promoted by Toshiba Corp. and NEC Corp.

No recorder using the HD DVD format has been put on the market yet; Toshiba said it will release a model next year.

Matsushita said its new recorder is likely to be sold at around 300,000 yen. That may come off as pricey for many consumers, given that most standard DVD recorders are now selling for less than 100,000 yen.

But the electronics giant said there is growing demand for recorders capable of recording high-definition TV programs, as broadcasters are increasing the number of high-definition programs.

It initially plans to produce 2,000 units a month.

Conventional DVD recorders cannot record high-definition images without compromising picture quality due to data capacity. Blu-ray, featuring a blue laser diode that is much denser than the red laser used in standard models, has a recording capacity about 10 times larger than the conventional DVD format and can record high-definition programs.

Matsushita is hoping the Summer Olympic Games will provide a great opportunity to market the new unit, because the time difference between Athens and Japan means most of the events will be taking place in the middle of the night here.

The recorder can also record and play back conventional DVDs.

Matsushita said it is not yet planning to sell it overseas because high-definition broadcasting has not become prevalent elsewhere.

Reminiscent of the VHS vs. Beta war two decades ago over the dominant format for videocassette recorders, the next-generation DVD battle is being waged between the Blu-ray and the HD DVD camps. Both formats use the blue laser diode.

“We believe the format that can record high-quality images for longer hours will win,” said Etsuji Shuda, head of Matsushita’s home audio visual unit, during a news conference. This time, archrivals Matsushita and Sony have found themselves bedfellows.

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