Sony Electronics has introduced an array of Blu-Ray Disc (BD) products, taking the wraps off of a high-definition DVD player, a BD-enabled desktop computer, and an internal BD drive.
Together, these products mark a concerted push by the Japanese electronics giant to put next-generation video into the hands of consumers and fend off a major challenge from Toshiba's competing HD DVD format.
Sony's BDP-S1 disc player, priced at $1,000, will ship in July with an output feature that will let those who have first-generation HD TV sets play Blu-Ray video content. In addition, according to Sony, the BDP-S1 will be backwards-compatible with standard DVDs and existing receivers.
New PC, Disc Drive
Sony's Vaio RC computer, the first announced with Blu-Ray technology built right in, will list for $2,300 when it is available this summer. Vaio RC users will be able to edit high-definition video footage, then archive it and share it on Blu-Ray discs. In addition, the Vaio RC will come with software that will give users the ability to convert video to standard DVD formants.
In April, Sony plans to ship 25-GB BD media, which will retail for about $20 to $25 for each disc. The 50-GB versions of the media will be dual-layer discs that will retail for around $50, according to Sony.
Later this year, Sony will release the internal BWU-100A drive, which will be able to handle both 25-GB and 50-GB discs, burning a full 25 GB disc in about 30 minutes. Retail pricing for the BWU-100A drive will be available later this year.
Sony Pictures' Home Entertainment division recently announced it will start shipping eight movies on BD beginning on May 23, with additional titles being released in June. Sony has noted that film studios will deliver about 100 Blu-Ray titles by the end of the year.
Both Sony and Toshiba have delayed the introduction of their high-definition DVD formats because of problems ironing out the final specs for their built-in digital-rights management technologies. The delay forced Sony this week to announce that it is postponing the launch of its Blu-Ray-enabled PlayStation 3 console.
"Consumers are confused now because we are at point where the supporters of Blu-Ray and HD DVD are constantly changing their strategies," said Yankee Group analyst Nitin Gupta. At this point, he said, ontent providers as well as hardware manufacturers are hedging their bets by backing both formats.
"The best-case scenario would be that one format will drop out, eliminating the confusion, but it appears that both are prepared to go to market, and they both have significant support," said Gupta
"It's now a footrace," said Ted Schadler of Forrester Research. "All of the deals have been made with manufacturers and the studios, and the content-protection licensing arrangements are in place." Schadler predicted that Blu-Ray will prevail as the dominant next-gen DVD format because of support from most of Hollywood's major players and the inclusion of the format in Sony's PlayStation 3 console.
Others analysts have predicted that Blu-Ray will have an edge over HD DVD because of its storage capacity. Still others contend that it is too early to declare a winner because there won't be any products making a significant impact on the market for two or three years.