Sony unveiled on Wednesday a Blu-ray Disc recorder it plans to launch in Japan before the end of this year.

The machine, which has yet to be named, will be a key product for the company in the end-of-year sales period, said Kiyoshi Shikano, corporate senior vice president of Sony Marketing (Japan) Inc. The recorder will be promoted alongside high-definition flat-panel televisions, camcorders and personal computers as Sony pushes the high-definition message to Japanese consumers, he said.

The new product was on show alongside Sony's other flagship products in Tokyo at the company's annual convention for electronics retailers.

While Sony is planning to launch the recorder to Japan this year, it has yet to decide when the machine will be available in other markets. A Blu-ray Disc player is due on sale in the U.S. later this year and in the first half of 2007 in Europe.

It won't be Sony's first Blu-ray Disc recorder. The company launched the BDZ-S77 in April 2003 in Japan and, with it, laid claim to the first high-definition optical disc recorder on the market.

The machine, however, was little more than a prototype pushed out for marketing purposes. It recorded onto 23G-byte discs, which were encased in cartridges, and wound not play commercial movies because it didn't include support for the copy protection system.

In contrast, the new recorder uses 25GB or 50GB cartridgeless discs and can playback commercial movies that are already on sale in the US and will be soon in Japan.