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DVD format clash continues with Sony announcement of Blu-ray release date
[March 19, 2006]

DVD format clash continues with Sony announcement of Blu-ray release date

(Newsday (Melville, NY) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Mar. 17--The format battle has been formally joined, and it's Beta-vs.-VHS redux: Sony Corp. yesterday announced the July release of its next-generation Blu-ray Disc DVD player that will compete with Toshiba's HD-DVD machine.

The Sony unit, $1,000 retail, may not be the first Blu-ray player selling in the United States -- Samsung has announced plans to offer one before July -- but the specifications for the new, high-resolution deck illustrate why the Blu-ray camp is hoping its system, and not its competitor's HD-DVD, is the future of DVD.

The new player will deliver "true high-definition" images to HD televisions equipped with so-called HDMI connectors, manufacturers said. The device also will upconvert, or improve, the resolution of existing, non-Blu-ray movies

Although the Sony machine is a playback-only unit, the company plans to sell by summer a Vaio desktop personal computer that will include a Blu-ray player/burner to record onto blank write-once or rewritable discs. Price: $2,300 for the computer, $20-$25 for the discs.

The marketplace confusion will intensify for consumers in early April when the $499 HD-DVD players and movies are scheduled to arrive. Sony had hoped give its format an automatic boost this spring by shipping its new PlayStation3 video game consoles, designed to incorporate Blu-ray. But that scenario is moot: The company announced this week that the PS3 system won't be ready for U.S. distribution until at least November.

Sony is committing to high-profile promotion of Blu-ray technology through its electronics stores; Sony Pictures' Home Entertainment division will release eight movies on Blu-ray in May, including "The Fifth Element," "A Knight's Tale" and "The Last Waltz." A second batch due in June features "Legends of the Fall," "Robocop" and "Underworld Evolution." Sony expects about 100 titles from several studios will be available by year's end.

Toshiba, which has Microsoft and Intel in its HD-DVD camp, has two players due in April, at $499 and $799, and an unspecified number of movie titles.

Instead of conventional red beams, both new formats employ blue lasers that more precisely focus on the surface of a disc that contains a much denser concentration of digital data than a standard DVD. The information translates to sharper, more resolved audio and video.

Blu-ray discs -- a format backed by Pioneer and Hewlett-Packard as well as Sony and Samsung -- have significantly more storage capability. But HD-DVDs, which will not play on Blu-ray systems, can be manufactured on existing equipment.

The PS3 announcement in Japan on Wednesday wasn't unexpected, and most observers expect the delay will give Microsoft time to build a wider audience for its Xbox 360 game system.

Ken Kutaragi, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, attributed the delay of PS3 to the late approval of the Blu-ray industry standard.

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