Sony Bows Fall Blu-ray Players3 Sep, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Sony Corp. in Japan Sept. 3 unveiled its fall line-up of Blu-ray players and recorders that includes players already launched and earmarked for the U.S. market at $399, $499 and $2,000 (with internet connectivity.
Sony said it projects industrywide global sales of Blu-ray players and recorders to top 7 million units by March 2009, compared to 2.1 million units in March 2008. The consumer electronics manufacturer said it expects to snare 44% (3.1 million units) of those sales, excluding an additional 10 million PlayStation 3 video game console unit sales, which include a Blu-ray drive.
The new Sony Profile 1.1 players, priced at $399 and $499, can be upgraded to 2.0 players offering Web connectivity via BD Live.
The $399 BDP-S350, which bowed in the U.S. in July, can accommodate a 1GB storage upgrade as well (via USB drive). The $499 BDP-S550 has improved audio support and includes 1GB of “persistent memory” storage.
“The S550 ships with everything you need out of the box to be fully BD Live capable, once the firmware update hits,” said Paul Erickson, director of DVD and HD market research with DisplaySearch, a NPD group company.
The players replace the S300 and S500 Profile 1.0 players Sony released last year, according to Erickson.
Billed as the “world’s most advanced” Blu-ray player, the Profile 2.0$2,000 unit (BDP-S5000ES) aims to be a video connoisseur’s dream.
In addition to 1GB of internal storage capacity, the player claims improved color depth (HD reality enhancer) and resolution (super bit mapping), BD Live (Internet connectivity) and BonusView (picture-in-picture). The player also boasts a high-performance 14-bit/297MHz video D/A converter for superior analogue video output and 7.1-channel linear PCM output as well as Dolby TrueHD/DTS- HD bitstream audio output to external AV receivers/decoders, among other options. Additionally it features a gold-plated HDMI port and related A/V connections.
In short, the BDP-S5000ES is intended to advance HD packaged media picture quality beyond the standard Blu-ray Disc, according to Sony. It’s slated to be available in December.
“The ‘price is no object’ people will pay for it,” Erickson said. “If you can afford a $5,000 Pioneer Kuro Plasma HDTV, you can probably afford to buy the best Blu-ray player out there.”
He said the player would likely remain exclusive to specialty stores and not appear at Best Buy or Circuit City.
The analyst said the fourth quarter, and Black Friday in particular, would prove interesting to see how consumers react to the less expensive $250 and $299 Profile 1.1 Blu-ray players already on the market.
Erickson envisions the S350 and S550 retail prices falling to $299 and $399-$450, respectively, in 2009.
He said the much-discussed $200 price point for wider consumer adoption of Blu-ray probably would not be reached this year. The analyst said that barometer is based upon consumer appeal of Blu-ray, which he said thus far has not mirrored the appeal of the iPod.
“For the first year or two, people were willing to pay a fair amount to get an iPod because it changed the paradigm even though you could get other players that played MP3 files,” Erickson said. “I don’t think we have seen consumers latch onto Blu-ray Disc players like they did the iPod.”