Sony to Sell Only BD-R Recorders in Japan, Will Not Drop DVD-R

As Sony made official yesterday, the company plans to release four new Blu-ray Disc recorders in Japan on November 8, all of which will be capable of recording to dual-layer (50 GB) BD-R and BD-RE (erasable, re-recordable) discs. But a statement by the company's vice president for consumer electronics, Katsumi Ihara, was mistaken by US press sources in its translation to English as saying that the company plans to drop support for red-laser DVD-R recording, in all recordable consoles sold in Japan after November.

The Japanese Agencies press service translated Ihara's statement as follows: "We plan to make all our recorders in the domestic market Blu-ray compatible in future, allowing consumers to record high-definition programs over a longer period." Asian news sources interpreted the statement to mean that after November, Sony's recordable consoles will no longer be DVD-R only.

A re-interpretation of Ihara's statement appeared on Yahoo News this afternoon, which used the verb "ditch" to characterize Sony's move as removing DVD-R support entirely, and perhaps DVD playability as well, from future disc consoles sold in Japan.

But Sony's own press release yesterday tells a completely different story, listing the following formats as supported by all four new players in its product line: "HDD, BD-ROM,BD-RE ver.2.1/ver.1.0,BD-R ver.1.1/1.2, Discs recorded in AVCHD format, DVD video, DVD+RW/+R, DVD-RW/-R/-R DL(dual layer) (video mode)/-RW(CPRM)/-R(CPRM), DualDisc, DVD+RW/+R DL(dual layer)/-RW/-R also compatible with 8cm disc." ("DualDisc" refers to a dual-format DVD containing separate video and audio tracks.)

BetaNews contacted Sony officials for further clarification, and have not yet heard back.

Sony's new top-of-the-line Blu-ray recorder will be the BDZ-X90, capable of recording up to 62 hours of Japanese terrestrial HD programs, or up to 44 hours of satellite quality Japanese HE resolution (the full 1920 x 1080p), onto its internal hard drive. It can then burn 2 hours, 10 minutes worth of that full resolution digital video and audio to a single-layer BD-R, or twice as much to a dual-layer.

All four models will feature Sony's new "long duration recording," which will trade off picture quality in stages (just like VHS recording) to enable up to 16 hours of video to be burned to a dual-layer BD. On the other end of the quality scale, only Sony's X90 will support the company's new DRC-MFv2.5 home theater output, which boosts HD resolution all the way to 1125p.

The Agencies Tokyo story quotes Ihara as saying Europe will be the next market in which these units will premiere, though based on that translation, he's sounding as though he's talking about 2008. North America was not mentioned.

But Sony's system specifications were quite clear, not only in categorizing DVD-R recording modes but also in DVD-R recording as a continued feature. Ihara's statement appears to be saying only that Sony is phasing out stand-alone DVD-R recorders, beginning this holiday season in Japan.

The "assumed market price" for the BDZ-X90 (a way of suggesting the retail price without formally suggesting it) is 200,000 yen, or presently about $1,736. On the other end of the scale, the BDZ-T50 - with about half the hard drive space and without dubbing capability for HD digital cameras - is expected to sell for the equivalent of $1,215.

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