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Lasers Are About to Enter Their Blue Period

New disks mean vastly enhanced TV and movies

Think of them as supersized grandchildren of the CD or as genetically enhanced offspring of the DVD. In a few years, for just a few hundred dollars, consumers will start snapping up next-generation digital recording systems that will employ exotic blue-violet lasers to etch 13 hours of video--more than six full-length movies--onto disks the size of standard music CDs.

With a capacity of about 30 gigabytes of data, compared with 4.7 GB for today's DVDs, the new disks promise a richer-than-ever digital experience. Video games will acquire photorealistic graphics and far more elaborate story lines. And TV viewers will be able to store hours of high-definition TV permanently on low-cost disks. If product-development plans at Japanese electronics companies pan out, the first commercial machines are expected to appear in late 2003. And because all of the new machines will be recorders, not just players, analysts expect consumer adoption to be swift.