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Wednesday, March 15, 2006
LG to Deliver Dual-format HD DVD/Blu-ray

Korea's LG Electronics said on Tuesday it planned to launch a next-generation DVD player that will bridge the yawning gap between two competing formats by playing both HD DVD and Blu-ray.

"LG is a supporter of Blu-ray and is now considering a dual format player for later this year," said John Taylor, a U.S. spokesman for the Korean company.

Korean LG Electronics last week became the second high-profile Blu-ray supporter after Hewlett-Packard to announce it would also support HD DVD.

In addition to throwing its support behind HD DVD, the Korean-based electronics maker also notified dealers in a memo that it was developing a dual-format HD DVD/Blu-ray Disc player, Taylor said.

LG's decision was expected, after the conclusion of the company's cross-license contract with Toshiba, last month. The agreement implicated worldwide patents of both companies on optical disc, optical disc drive and optical disc player/recorder products.

In a similar move, Sony and NEC have created a new joint-venture company, called Sony- NEC Optiarc, that will take over all manufacturing of optical disc drives from both companies. The new JV is scheduled to begin operations on Monday April 3, 2006, and has announced that it will produce both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray (BD) drives for general sale to assemblers of players and recorders, and for inclusion in computers. Although it has said nothing about producing drives capable of handling both types of blue-laser HD recordings, we should expect such an announcement could come before the end of the second quarter.

This leaves open the possibility that, by the 2006 holiday season, consumers in most major markets will be able to choose from among three distinct kinds of high-definition video players: lower cost HD-DVD units, higher cost BD players, and "universal" players, possibly the most expensive of all.

Quite a few comments have begun to circulate that suggest that several companies have already decided to introduce such machines.

Currenlty, LG showcases at CeBIT Blu-ray optical drives for use in combination with a personal computer, expected to hit the market some time this year, but the price had not yet been decided.

Richard Doherty, analyst with Envisioneering, said LG planned the launch for fall. A dual player would be a win for both retailers and consumers who will likely face months or years of frustration and confusion in a standards war, he added.

"While LG is the first to announce a dual player, we're sure it will not be the last system that gives consumers what they expect -- high definition discs that play with no questions asked," he said.

HD DVD players are expected to be out of the gate first, hitting stores later this month, while Blu-ray has said it expects its first players and titles to hit the market in May.

Both sides were the subject of rumored delays on Tuesday.

HD DVD films from Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros. may not be ready in time for the launch of Toshiba's player on March 28, contrary to expectations.

Buyers Confused

Retailers and consumers are already frustrated by the format battle. If several companies were to announce intentions to market universal players, this could cause most buyers to delay any decision to purchase a high-definition player until prices for the universal units fall to more attractive levels. As matters now stand, confusion reigns, and that is hardly a good thing for an industry that definitely needs new products to shore up sagging sales of current DVD video players and recorders.

It would make good sense if everyone agreed to produce just one type of blue-laser player, whether Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, or a universal unit. But at this late date, it would take some sort of miracle for that to happen.

Source: MMIS, Reuters, CDRInfo

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