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Sony to launch Blu-ray PCs in June

No word yet on UK launch or pricing

Sony will begin selling its first personal computers with Blu-ray Disc drives in Japan in June, the company said today.

Both laptop and desktop computers will be available.

The Vaio VGN-AR70B laptop has a 17in widescreen LCD (liquid crystal display) panel with a 1,920x1,080 resolution, so it can show HD (high-definition) content at full quality. The Vaio VGN-RC729DP desktop includes a digital TV tuner and will be sold with or without a 19in LCD monitor.

The drives in both computers can read and write to Blu-ray Discs. A single-layer Blu-ray disc can store 25GB of data, or about five times that of today's DVDs, and can be used to store both computer files and video. In Japan, Sony is bundling software with the systems that can record digital HDTV broadcasts to the hard disk and later copy that content across to a Blu-ray Disc.

The computers can import video from external sources such as Sony's high-definition camcorder. Once in the PC, users can edit the video and burn it to a disc. This fills an important gap in Sony's HD offerings, since people using the camcorder today have difficulty exporting the HD video out of the PC in a useful format.

There's also an HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) connector on the laptop for sending the video signal to an HD television.

The laptop is based on an Intel Core Duo T2500 (2GHz) processor and has 200GB of storage. The desktop uses a Pentium D (3.2GHz) processor and has 500GB of storage.

The laptop will cost around ¥400,000 (about £1,930) and go on sale in Japan on 24 June. The desktop version will cost about ¥440,000 (£2,120) with monitor or about ¥380,000 (£1,830) without, and go on sale from 17 June. The laptop will be available in the US in the summer this year and cost around $3,500 (£1,850), Sony's US unit said.

The laptop is expected to be the first portable computer from any manufacturer to go on sale with a Blu-ray Disc drive, although Toshiba is about to put on sale a laptop with drive for the rival HD-DVD format. In the desktop market Fujitsu is planning to sell a desktop with a Blue-ray drive in June.

Sony is a major backer of the Blu-ray Disc format for high-definition movies and content. The format is battling HD-DVD to become the de facto replacement for DVDs for high-definition content. In terms of data storage Blu-ray Disc has the advantage with its 25GB single layer disc comparing favorably with 15GB HD DVD-R discs or 20GB HD DVD-Rewritable discs.

Sony will start selling blank Blu-ray Disc media in Japan in mid-June to coincide with the launch of the two computers. A 25GB BD-R write-once disc will cost ¥1,900 (£9) and a similar-capacity BD-RW rewritable disc will cost ¥2,700 (£13).

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