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Wal-Mart to Bow $298 Blu-ray Player

14 May, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. according to Web chatter has begun stocking shelves in select stores with a Magnavox-branded, Chinese made Blu-ray player with a retail price of $298 — $100 less than Sony's PlayStation 3 game system with a BD drive.

The entry-level Profile 1.1 (model NB500MG9) device features HDMI 1.3 connectivity, picture-in-picture functionality and can upconvert standard DVD to 1080p resolution.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart in 2002 helped jumpstart mass consumer appeal for standard DVD when it bowed a player for $39 on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when retailers inaugurate holiday sales with special prices.

A Wal-Mart representative was not immediately available for comment.

The player, unlike 2.0 models slated for release this summer from Pioneer and Panasonic, cannot be connected to the Internet — considered by experts a prerequisite to accessing the full potential of Blu-ray, including BD Live.

Although experts contend $200 is the sweet spot for widespread consumer adoption of Blu-ray, Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger last week said a $300 Blu-ray player would be an excellent catalyst for home entertainment sales this year.

Richard Doherty, media analyst with The Envisioneering Group in New York, said the reduced price is a start, but added that studios, manufacturers and retailers still must cobble together a cohesive message to the consumer that indicates why Blu-ray is more than just a high-def format.

“There needs to be a more consistent message out there,” Doherty said. “Fewer than one in 10 Blu-ray players will have all the features. The same [goes] for the movies.”

Tom Adams with Adams Media Research in Carmel, Calif., said Internet connectivity incorporated in the 2.0 players is important to appreciate everything Blu-ray has to offer, but most consumers don't know that.

“And it won't be important until there is a unified message to the consumer that there is a new standard out there and this device has it,” Adams said.

Initial reports about this news emanated from several sites, includingGizmodo.com, ElectronicHouse.com, TVPredictions.com, CDFreaks.com, and Digital-Digest.com.

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