Sony, Panasonic Blu-ray disc player announcements

Sony initially targeted July for shipping its Blu-ray Disc player, the US$999 BD-SP1. That date shifted by a few weeks into August, reportedly to coincide with the company's launch of its 1080p. Now, Sony's site is reporting a ship date "on or about October 25."

According to a Sony spokesperson, this is the first official delay of the product. The spokesperson attributed the delay to an unspecified product software issue that the company's engineers "are working to resolve."

The October 25 ship date puts it after the expected launch of Pioneer's $1500 Elite BDP-HD1 player, and before the announced debut of Sony's PlayStation 3 console game system with Blu-ray Disc (available in $499 and $599 flavors), due November 17.

Samsung Electronics is launching its Blu-ray Disc player, the BD-P1000 this weekend; the $999 player officially goes on sale at retail and online outlets on June 25.

Yesterday, Panasonic announced its entry into the Blu-ray Disc player sandbox, the DMP-BD10. Priced at $1300, the player will be available standalone, as well as together with other components in Panasonic's Blu-ray Disc High Definition Home Theater system, which also includes the company's $1000 SA-XR700 matching receiver and its $3000 SB-TP1000 speaker system.

Whenever a new format launches, delays are not good news. However, it's still early goings in this format war. While both HD DVD and Blu-ray would have had stronger format launches had more products shipped at launch (a separate topic entirely, and one I'll weigh in on at another time), I can't say these delays--or the high prices of the Blu-ray devices--will necessarily sway the format war one way or the other. After all, thus far the only HD DVD players shipping are the two models from Toshiba, and RCA's model (which sounds suspiciously like Toshiba's). No other consumer electronics company has announced a dedicated HD DVD player.

And, given the not-surprising reports of LG and Samsung exploring hybrid Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD players--and assuming these players do come to market--then by the time high-definition video playback goes mainstream, it's possible that hybrid players will dominate the market at any rate, making the format war as meaningless as the struggle over DVD-R vs. DVD+R.

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