One of the more frequent e-mails we receive is, when are Blu-ray recorders coming out? Blu-ray recorders have been available in Japan for quite some time now, but we haven't seen any manufacturer planning to offer a recorder in the U.S. However, HD Guru recently blogged about the CEATEC trade show in Japan, and we noticed this little nugget buried in the middle:
"Panasonic will be introducing a freestanding Blu-ray recorder/player in the US during the first half of 2009. (BTW, Blu-ray recorder prices have really dropped in Japan. I spotted a Sharp Blu-ray recorder at Yodobashi camera for around $800 US)."
That's news to us. In fact, we met with Panasonic engineers recently, and when we brought up Blu-ray recorders they had no news for the U.S. market.
Although we do get plenty of reader e-mail concerning Blu-ray recorders, there's plenty of reasons to believe they won't be popular in the U.S. First up is the high price. An $800 recorder might be a big price drop, but it's still much more than standalone Blu-ray players, which most consumers already consider too expensive. Secondly, HD DVRs are relatively cheap and convenient, especially when you consider that a blank 25GB BD-R Disc costs about $8-$10. Lastly, we'll be interested to see exactly what you'll be able to record with a Blu-ray recorder. We're assuming people would be most interested in recording premium content from networks such as HBO, but we'd be surprised if content providers didn't start using copyright protection to make that impossible. Meanwhile, remember that anything you record off of most network and cable channels will be chock full of onscreen ads and snipes--hardly the sort of version we'd want to archive to our permanent collection.
So while there's certainly a limited market for Blu-ray recorders, it will be interesting to see if they're able to expand beyond that niche audience.