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Packaged Media's Increased Impudence

2 Mar, 2006 By: Erik Gruenwedel

The future of packaged media (specifically Blu-ray Disc) is looking cloudy. Sony Corp. has intimated delays, possibly until 2007, for the launch of the much-ballyhooed PlayStation 3 (PS3) video game console.

Merrill Lynch set the snowball in motion Feb. 17 when it released a report claiming initial PS3 units would cost $800 to produce, three times analysts' projected retail price and three times the cost of Microsoft's Xbox 360, which bowed last November.

Considering the first Blu-ray Disc players are expected to retail well beyond $1,000, would a next-generation video game console that plays Blu-ray discs be competitively priced for anyone other than affluent early adopters?

Katsuhiko Machida, president of Blu-ray backer Sharp Electronics, told The New York Times that Blu-ray wouldn't be a factor until 2008.

“It's too early to move into this market,” Machida said.

And it might be too late.

I was in a local Target store over the weekend listening to a clerk in the electronics department question the wisdom of the PS3. He claimed the PS format had about 15 decent games, tops, wasn't backward-compatible with previous editions (unlike Xbox) and had limited memory.

He was indifferent about Blu-ray and preferred Microsoft's Xbox 360 because he could record live TV, play DVDs and interface with an iPod.

“I bought three of them and sold one on eBay,” he said, feverishly tapping the 360 controls while maneuvering King Kong against the world.

As packaged media marches on with its irrelevant civil war, major content providers are evolving in a different direction.

Both CBS and MTV last week announced new programming options for mobile phones and wireless carriers, including episodes of Comedy Central's “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “South Park;” VH1's “The Surreal Life” and “Celebrity Fit Club;” and MTV's “The Real World: Key West,” among others.

If U.S. alpine skier Bode Miller's boorish efforts at the Turin Winter Olympics sent you channel surfing, you probably missed hearing mention that the pilot, behind the scenes and theme song to NBC's new midseason drama “Conviction” (think “Law & Order” with twentysomething hotties), could be had for free (sans commercials, too) until March 3 at the iTunes music store.

And you thought only lithe skaters could land a triple-Lutz-double-toe-loop.

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