I agree most people who would buy these cheap players do not speak HiDef-ish and cannot really tell the difference between DD and DD+, or HDMI 1.2 or 1.3 - and some don't really care.
But even not speaking the lingo, NOT all things look and feel the same. Some would have very little effect on the sales of these players, while others could still send some customers thinking they are before INFERIOR players - and I assume the idea behind these players is to give consumers the confidence that they don't really need a big name like Sony or Panasonic in silver logos in front of their players. They CAN have a full HD mind-blowing experience without all that.
And in my point of view, price alone will not work. It works WITH a solid name like Toshiba on a $399 player. But without that solid and trusted name, we need to offer something in return.
This Chinese-players move is the most delicate thing in the whole HD DVD strategy because if consumers come to trust these players - meaning that they come to see the same quality and reliability they would get from a Sony/Toshiba-like named player, it can be wonderful.
If not, HD DVD can be stamped with a label the BDA tried to stick on it several times: that HD DVD is just a transitional format towards the superior Blu-ray.
Now about the player:
HDMI 1.2 seems fine to me. I doubt most of the people know the difference between them.
Component output? Sure.
720p/1080i? - there I'm not so sure. It worked for the Toshiba models being bought by early adopters who know what that means. But I'm afraid that, although the average consumer may not know the difference between the two (i or p), they will perceive that as a severe compromise.
The average consumer can be very demanding even if they do not really know why they are demanding. It is a marketing problem to be solved within the marketing department. Marketing MUST have a word on those players.
If the player is 780p/1080i, the HD DVD camp must make sure that this lack of 1080p is NOT perceived as the big difference that drove the price so low - otherwise, I'm afraid, the whole format may be attacked (by competing PR
and marketing teams) just as it has been so many times.
Still I believe we need the full spectrum of models at an affordable price.
And before setting the specs for a player with... say... 1080i and not 1080p, I think the HD DVD camp should study EXACTLY what is the consumer perception, desire and the sales trend of 1080p HDTVs.
Do the average consumers perceives 1080i as "enough" or do they feel they are entitled to more? (specially because that's what Blu-ray promises: full HD always).
Do the average consumers desire an HD DVD player? Some do. Some not yet. What specs turn their desires on? Maybe 1080p will do that and put the more expensive Blu-ray players to RIP.
During the time it will take to sell all those players (if they are just 1080i), what will happen to the 1080p HDTV's price? Certainly, by Xmas 2007, these TVs will not cost the same they did a year before. And more important yet, by Xmas 2007, both HD DVD and Blu-ray will already have contributed a lot to the public awareness of HDTVs. Is it still marketing-wise to release 1080i players in a season with so much shopping and misinformation going on?
I wonder if the time to drop the "just 1080i" player will not have arrived by the end of the year. Why? Because lots of HDTVs will be sold by then (and through March 2008) will be 1080p... and we don't want to lose those customers.
So, I believe we need a full spectrum of cheap players: 1080i for $199/$240 and 1080p for $299.
The Toshiba X2 could drop to $350 and get the customer who will not abdicate from a brand name on their players.