Matsushita Electric - better known as Panasonic - will launch a Blu-ray Disc recorder compatible with new dual-layer discs and existing recordable DVD formats at the end of July, the company announced.

The Panasonic DMR-E700BD can record four and a half hours of digital satellite high-definition television (HDTV) when used with 50GB dual-layer Blu-ray Disc Rewritable format discs, said Etsuji Shuda, director of Panasonic's AVC Networks home AV business unit, at a Tokyo news conference.

This extends to six hours for digital terrestrial HDTV and nine hours for standard definition digital satellite TV. Analogue television can be recorded for between ten and a half hours and 63 hours depending on the quality mode selected.

Single-layer Blu-ray Disc Rewritable discs with a capacity of 25GB are also supported and offer half the recording time, while DVD-RAM and DVD-R discs can be used to record analogue television. Panasonic plans to launch both single-layer and dual-layer Blu-ray discs to coincide with the recorder's launch on July 31.

Blu-ray Disc is one of two formats emerging as a potential replacement for DVD-Video. Consumer electronics companies are looking at new formats because DVD's recording capacity, which is generally either 4.7GB or 9.4GB, is only enough to store around one hour of HDTV. The other format is called HD-DVD and has yet to be commercialized.

Both formats rely on blue lasers to enable the storage of more data on a disc the same diameter as a CD or DVD. Because blue light has a shorter wavelength than the red light used in DVDs, the spot the laser makes on the recording surface is smaller. This means each bit of data needs less space and so more can be crammed onto a disc.

The new recorder will cost around ¥300,000 (£1,530), the 50GB LM-BRM50 disc will cost ¥7,500 (£38) and the 25GB LM-BRM25 disc will cost ¥3,500 (£18), Matsushita said.

In launching the player, Matsushita becomes the second company to commercialize a Blu-ray Disc recorder. Sony, one of the main drivers of the format, launched a recorder in April last year. The BDZ-S77 went on sale for ¥450,000 (£2,300) and currently costs around ¥330,000 (£1,700). Sony has not announced any sales figures for the machine.

The discs used by Matsushita in its new machine are different to those used by Sony. The Sony recorder uses single-layer discs with a 23GB capacity encased in a cartridge, while Matsushita's discs, in addition to being a different capacity, are in an open cartridge that the company says will become the standard for Blu-ray Disc. As a result of the differences there are some compatibility issues between the two formats.

Matsushita said it has no plans to launch the DMR-E700BD outside of Japan. Plans for overseas versions will depend on the development of the HDTV market in the respective countries, said Shuda.

Other companies are also planning recorders and have shown prototype models. At the CES show in Las Vegas in January, LG Electronics said it plans to launch a Blu-ray recorder with built-in hard-disk drive in the US market later this year.