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Sony Pulls Plug on Betamax VCRs Tue Aug 27, 1:22 PM ET

TOKYO (AP) – Sony closed the final chapter of its legendary battle with Victor Co. of Japan to dominate the home video machine market, when it announced Tuesday that it would discontinue its Betamax VCRs.

Sony will stop manufacturing Betamax machines by year’s end as the company refocuses its efforts on DVD and other technologies now dominating the market, Sony spokeswoman Shoko Yanagizawa said.

The announcement marks the end of a 27-year run, during which the fabled brand sold 18 million units worldwide in a race against VHS technology from its archrival Victor Co., which is also known as JVC, to set the video format standard.

Betamax was first to market, hitting stores in 1975 and peaking with global sales of 2.3 million units in 1984.

But the decision not to share its technology with rival companies proved to be Sony’s fatal mistake.

In a classic case of the underdog winning the race, VHS — short for “video home system” — had clearly won the battle by the mid-1980s. The technology used now in millions of video recorders around the world is JVC’s.

While the war between competing standards is ensconced in business lore — with many die-hard fans still debating the pros and cons of the two technologies — Yanagizawa blamed the decision to halt production on the new era of DVDs and other advanced digital technologies that are making the videocassette obsolete.

Even for JVC, videocassette technology is losing its luster. The company lost money two of the last three fiscal years and is forecasting losses for the year that ended March 31.

Overseas production of the Betamax ground to a halt in 1998. In Japan, Sony produced just 2,800 units in 2001.