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Sony to launch digital VCR

Taking TiVo to Japan - or is it?

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Sony will launch itself against TiVo this summer when it will challenge the digital video recorder pioneer in Japan with a machine of its own. This despite the fact that Sony US is a TiVO technology licensee.

The oddly-named Clip-On contains a 30GB hard drive, onto which users can record between five and 20 hours of TV programmes, depending on the picture quality they're willing to put up with. Standard quality yields ten hours' recording time.

Unlike a standard VCR, the digital variety allows users to watch recorded programmes while others are being 'taped', and even to watch an earlier part of the show that's currently being recorded.

The Clip-On (model number: SVR-175) will initially retail in Japan on 20 August, priced at ¥198,000 ($1899). It's not cheap, but if that's the price of the most flexible off-air recording medium there is, so be it. That said, TiVo's 14-hour and 30-hour models retail for around $299 and $399, respectively, so Sony is going to have to do some price-cutting if and when it ships Clip-On outside the Japanese market.

Then again, it may not need to. Sony's US wing already offers a digital video recorder based on TiVo's own system. TiVo's reference platform is based on a PowerPC CPU running Linux up to an MPEG-2 encoding/decoding sub-system and a 13.6GB or 27.2GB hard drive.

So is the Clip-on a TiVo box? The difference in programme recording capacities suggests not, as does Sony Japan's broad 'not invented here' policy. ®

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