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Pioneer, Panasonic Bow New Blu-ray Disc Players

7 May, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Consumer electronics manufacturers Panasonic and Pioneer Electronics May 6 announced separately pending launches of new third-generation Blu-ray Disc players with Bonus View (picture-in-picture) and BD-Live (Web-enabled interactivity), among other features.

Analysts view the arrival of 2.0 Blu-ray players at around $200 as prerequisites for wider consumer adoption of next-generation packaged media.

Panasonic and Pioneer's players may deliver full functionality, but at steeper prices.

Panasonic's DMP-BD50 player — available this spring — retails for $699.95, while the earlier DMP-BD30 (sans full functionality) carried a suggested price of $499.95.

Pioneer's BDP-51FD and BDP-05FD models — available this summer — carry suggested prices of $599 and $799, respectively. Earlier Blu-ray players, BDP-95FD and BDP-94HD, retailed for $999 each.

Both players feature SD memory cards, 1080p resolution and 7.1 Channel surround sound.

“The beauty of the Blu-ray player is that we can now see movies the way the filmmaker intended,” said Paul Sabo, national marketing manager entertainment group with Panasonic.

The beauty of full functionality may be tempered by the robust prices that run contrary to what experts and studios believe will persuade consumers to adopt Blu-ray technology in greater numbers.

Steve Wilson, principal analyst with ABI Research, said last month retailers may covet the improved Blu-ray players, but without lower prices, wider adoption will be stalled.

“A depressed economy in the United States could also lead HDTV and prospective HDTV owners to opt for up-converting standard DVD players as they delay buying higher-ticket CE items,” Wilson said in a research note.

Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO Robert Iger this week reiterated the need for $300 Blu-ray players in the market to help create greater consumer demand for the format.

Indeed, even with the availability of smaller ticket Blu-ray players, Wilson said the Blu-ray market would require 12 to 18 months to kick into gear.

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