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Sony's Blu-ray Player Finally Arrives

12 Dec, 2006 By: John Latchem

After several delays, Sony Electronics finally shipped its first dedicated Blu-ray Disc player, the BDP-S1, to major consumer electronics retailers and specialty dealers at the end of November.

The company is touting the release as “just in time for the holidays.”

The next-generation device outputs a 1920x1080p HD video signal and can play pre-recorded BD titles, as well as upscaling standard DVDs. An analog component output for 1080i is included for consumers who own a non-HDMI HDTV set.

“Combining a Sony 1080p HDTV set and our new BD player with an HDMI-enabled A/V receiver and surround sound speakers provides the epitome of the high-definition lifestyle,” said Randy Waynick, SVP of marketing for Sony Electronics' home products division.

Sony will offer firmware updates in 2007 to allow the BDP-S1 to play back BD-R/RE recorded media and enhanced BD-Java functionality.

The BDP-S1 model is offered for about $999 by electronics retailers such as Circuit City, Best Buy and Sony Style.

The Sony player has yet to appear for sale on the Web sites for discount chains such as Target or Wal-Mart. Both online shops carry the previously released Samsung player, while Wal-Mart also offers a Philips player.

The availability of the player comes at a time when the electronics giant seems to be losing momentum to Toshiba's HD DVD in the effort to produce a next-generation, optical-disc format.

Though movies on Blu-ray Disc launched in June, the BDP-S1 was originally scheduled to launch in August, then pushed to October before being bumped to early December. This temporarily left Sony, the Blu-ray format's primary backer, without a standalone player on the market.

In the interim, Sony had released BD-capable VAIO computers, as well as the highly anticipated PlayStation 3 video game console, which includes a Blu-ray player. But the delays — coupled with Sony's muddled history with introducing new video formats, such as Betamax and UMD — added to a consumer perception that Sony did not have its act together. A recent survey by Cymfony Inc. found HD DVD had greater online buzz, and Blu-ray's association with the PS3 was part of the reason.

Sony only shipped about half its promised 400,000 PS3 units for the console's mid-November launch because of a shortage of laser diodes used on the BD player component, according to reports. Such shortages have hampered production of BD players by other electronics manufacturers as well.

In a Reuters report, Yankee Group analyst Michael Goodman said Sony's strategy of including the BD player in the PS3 would not act as a market driver. He said he believes the extra $200 cost as a result of the included BD player could suppress later PS3 sales beyond the die-hard gamer crowd.

Still, others think the PS3 is key to Blu-ray adoption. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment worldwide president Mike Dunn has cited it as a big driver that will make the Blu-ray choice a “no-brainer.”

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