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Sony Begins Concerted Blu-ray Campaign

5 Jun, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

Sony executives last week pulled out the full-court-press for Blu-ray discs, demonstrating an array of forthcoming Blu-ray products at a two-day media event.

While HD DVD and its main backer, Toshiba, have beaten Blu-ray to market, Sony execs said there is little cause for concern.

Blu-ray has the best backing from the content and electronics industries, said Sony Pictures Home Entertainment president Ben Feingold.

“Of course, there will be some mistakes,” he said. “That's what happens in life and when you launch a product.”

Blu-ray will rise quickly as cream of the HD crop, with a line of content and products that bring a new, cohesive focus on home entertainment into the living room, backers said.

“We really see Blu-ray as the pinnacle of sight, source and sound,” said Jeff Goldstein, VP of marketing for Sony's home products division. There's already a tremendous amount of excitement at the retail level, he added.

Last week, Sony also kicked off a concerted demonstration strategy of its Blu-ray lineup in the company's high-end Sony Style boutique stores in the top 10 U.S. markets.

Sony BMG's Scott Dinsdale, VP of digital optical technology, was on hand to preview the two music Blu-ray discs arriving late this summer, one from John Legend and one from Rod Stewart.

“For music fans, there's nothing better than Blu-ray,” he said. “It's the next best thing to being there.”

The first Blu-ray disc, Hitch, streets June 20. The first Blu-ray player, from Samsung, arrives June 25 at $999.

Sony displayed two of its upcoming Blu-ray players last week, one hooked up to a new flat-panel from the company's Bravia line, another to a larger, rear-projection HDTV set.

Also on hand for demonstration was the Sony VAIO laptop, which hits the market late this month enabled with Blu-ray playback and recordability, an 1080p HD monitor, two 100GB hard drives, a TV tuner and more. At $3,499, this is definitely a pricey option, but could be the “sleeper” of the Blu-ray line, backers said, as the computer can function like a media center, hooking up to television and audio systems in the living room.

Sony will ship a free Blu-ray disc of House of Flying Daggers with every VAIO.

Exact availability information on the Sony Blu-ray players still is not available, but the first Sony Blu-ray player (the BDP-S1) is slated for release in July with a $1,000 price tag.

On the software side, all new releases from SPHE from here on will arrive day and date for standard DVD and Blu-ray, Feingold said, specifically naming the studio's current theatrical slate, The Da Vinci Code, Talladega Nights, Monster House and Click.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's Don Eklund, EVP of advanced technologies, ushered guests to a theater, where, using the trailer for Sony Picture's upcoming Adam Sandler comedy Click in a split screen, he demonstrated the quality differential between standard-definition DVD and the original digital master of the film.

Then, Eklund showed the same split screen, this time comparing the Blu-ray version to the original master. The difference was striking, drawing mutters and comments from many quizzical technology reporters in attendance.

As for the oft-discussed Image Constraint Token (ICT), which would downgrade a Blu-ray high-def image to any TV set that isn't enabled with the protective HDMI components, Eklund said Sony does not plan to use the ICT, at least, not now.

“We just don't think it's necessary,” he said. “We don't think there's going to be piracy from HD analog inputs. Although, we do reserve the right to use it in the future.”

The ICT could impact as many as half the HDTV sets already on the market.

Blu-ray discs will have regional coding for three regions, Eklund said, but not right away, since the first Blu-ray discs to arrive are primarily catalog titles. In the future, the new release slate will be regionally coded.

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