Sanyo to Produce HD-DVD Players

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Sanyo Electric, an established maker of optical drives and components, will produce both components and players for the blue-laser-based HD-DVD format, the company says.

Sanyo cites ease of manufacturing as its reason for siding with the new format. The company is the third major Japanese maker of digital consumer products to announce its support for HD-DVD (which stands for High Definition/High Density-DVDs).

Earlier this summer, NEC and Toshiba both threw their weight behind HD-DVD, announcing plans to launch hardware in 2005. Toshiba plans to release a home player and possibly a recorder, while NEC plans a drive for use with computers.

Going Beyond Components

After studying both HD-DVD and the rival Blu-ray Disc format, Sanyo opted for HD-DVDs because the technology is compatible with current DVDs, says Ryan Watson, a Sanyo spokesperson.

Advocates of the HD-DVD format say their production process is nearly the same as that for DVDs. They say that converting existing production lines from DVDs to HD-DVDs is simple, and that HD-DVDs can be made at about the same price as today's standard DVDs.

Memory-Tech, one of Japan's largest optical disc makers, recently demonstrated HD-DVD disc production at a rate that meant it could be producing the discs at near-DVD prices in about one year from now.

"What is attractive about HD-DVD is that it is similar to DVDs, and as far as the manufacturing process is concerned, we can keep the same lines," says Watson.

Sanyo intends to make a series of components for HD-DVD players, including the optical pickup. According to Watson, Sanyo has a 40-percent share of the global market for optical pickups (for optical drives and burners). While the company isn't a major maker of DVD recorders, it plans to release an HD-DVD player for the Japanese market in 2005, followed by a release in the United States.

Blu-ray Still a Possibility, Too

Sanyo hasn't ruled out participating in Blu-ray--at least at a component level, says Watson.

"We looked at Blu-ray, but there were compatibility issues. Down the line, it is possible that we could supply components for Blu-ray," he says.

Blu-ray is backed by a group of consumer electronics and PC companies, including Sony, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsushita Electric (Panasonic), Mitsubishi Electric, Philips Electronics, Pioneer Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sharp, TDK, and Thomson Multimedia. Blu-ray Discs use a new structure requiring new production lines, which will drive up costs, at least initially.

Both Sony and Matsushita already have Blu-ray recorders on the market; however, players that support read-only BD-ROM discs--the sorts of discs that will potentially store Hollywood movies and other content--won't be available until late next year, at the earliest.

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