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Best Buy Exec: Portability Blu-ray’s Biggest Obstacle

3 Nov, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey

Mike Vitelli

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Mike Vitelli, EVP of Best Buy’s customer operating groups, compared consumers’ choice between DVD and Blu-ray Disc to buying a cup of coffee, but being charged a different price if you take it to go.

“[Consumers] will make the DVD choice,” Vitelli said at the Blu-Con 2.0 conference Nov. 3. “We, collectively, have to make it simpler for our customers. For the most part, Blu-ray is landlocked, home-locked.”

Calling portability the No. 1 obstacle for mass Blu-ray adoption, Vitelli said consumers today may be aware of Blu-ray and its benefits, but they’re still not familiar with it.

“Our inflection point is right now,” he said. “What are we going to do over the next five years?”

Vitelli said DVD is so ingrained into consumers’ lives, with players in bedrooms, children’s rooms, cars and laptops, the easier choice for them today is DVD. Panasonic introduced the first portable Blu-ray player this year, the DMP-B15, but it retails for upwards of $800.

That’s a far cry from the Blu-ray standalone player prices expected at retail this Christmas. Ron Sanders, president of Warner Home Video, said $100 entry-level prices won’t be a surprise, and with 90% satisfaction with the technology from current Blu-ray owners, mass adoption could be around the corner.

Vitelli said 65% of American consumers now have an HDTV, and that number could reach 95% by 2013. He pointed to research data that showed 10 million Blu-ray players will be sold this year, 4.1 million of those being the PlayStation 3.

“Blu-ray players are growing faster than any other product in the consumer electronics industry,” he said.

But until consumers know that their HDTV “wants” a Blu-ray player to go with it, until the technology becomes as portable as its predecessor, and until the consumer can be informed enough to make a clear decision toward Blu-ray, amid the slew of set-top boxes and electronic delivery options available, high-def disc adoption will be impeded, Vitelli said.

“Until all of this gets settled, you’ll have massive confusion,” he said.

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