The battle for supremacy in the optical disc technology between world's No.2 consumer electronics company, Sony Corp.'s Blu-ray and rival Toshiba's HD DVD, has intensified with Sony announcing that it will launch four models of new Blu-ray high-definition (HD) optical disc recorders in November in Japan.

Sony, along with Panasonic maker Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. is promoting the Blu-ray technology, which competes with the HD DVD format, backed by Toshiba Corp. and software giant Microsoft Corp.

The new models, capable of recording up to 16 hours of high-definition programs on a dual-layer, 50-gigabyte (GB) Blu-ray disc, will go on sale on November 8, a Sony official said.

Sony's previous models, launched last year, were unable to record on a dual-layer disc.

The company aims to produce 40,000 units of the new Blu-ray disc recorders a month, the official said, adding that the new Blu-ray recorders can still handle conventional DVD discs.

The top-end machine of the four, which comes with a 500-GB hard disk drive, is expected to sell for about 200,000 yen ($1,752), roughly in line with Toshiba's flagship HD DVD recorder.

With high-definition TVs spreading rapidly and more digital cameras and camcorders are becoming HD-ready, time is ripe for household recorders to move onto a next generation, Sony Executive Deputy President Katsumi Ihara told a news conference.

We intend to make all our recorders in the domestic market Blu-ray compatible, he said.

According to industry estimates, domestic shipments of Blu-ray DVD recorders/players and its rival format, HD-DVD, supported by Toshiba Corp., are expected to reach some 400,000 units in the year to March 2008, accounting for 11.8 percent of domestic sales of DVD recorders/players.

Outside Japan, Sony is also considering launching the new Blu-ray recorders in Europe, but the launch timing has yet to be decided.

Sony got a big boost when video rental chain Blockbuster Inc., the largest U.S. provider of home movie entertainment, in June came out in favor of the Blu-ray format.

But Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. signed exclusivity deals last month to distribute their next-generation discs on Toshiba's HD DVD format for the next 18 months, a move that evened a contest when Sony's Blu-ray disc appeared to be pulling ahead.

Sony had also pinned its hopes on its PlayStation 3 (PS3) videogame console, which is equipped with a Blu-ray player, expecting that a successful sale of the consoles would give its Blu-ray technology the lead over the HD DVD format.