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HD-DVD, Blu-ray launch timing clarified

Let battle commence

Launch timing for the HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats became clearer on Friday with the disclosure by two companies of their initial sales plans.

The two formats are vying to replace current DVDs for HD (high-definition) content, such as movies, and have pitted industry giants against each other. The main backers of HD-DVD include Toshiba, NEC and Intel, while those backing Blu-ray Disc include Sony, Panasonic and Samsung.

Sony said its first Blu-ray Disc player, the BDP-S1, will be available in the US from July for about $1,000 (around £570). The company had previously committed to an "early summer" launch. Samsung plans to put a Blu-ray Disc player on sale in April.

The Sony player will support a video output at 1,080 lines of resolution and progressive scanning, the company said in a statement. This is known as 'full HD' and is the highest of several video formats considered HD. As a concession to content providers, the full HD output will only be available via an HDMI (HD multimedia interface) connector that supports copy protection. Owners of TV sets without an HDMI connector will be able to watch up to a 1,080-line interlaced signal, which is the second highest rank of HD picture.

Sony has priced its first desktop computer that will have a Blu-ray Disc burner. The drive will be able to write to 25GB and 50GB BD-RE (rewritable) and BD-R (write once) discs. Sony will start selling 25GB BD-RE and BD-R discs in April for $20 and $25 (£12 and £15) respectively and 50GB capacity versions of the same discs later in the year for $48 and $60 (£28 and £35) respectively.

The Vaio RC will be launched in "early summer" and will cost around $2,300 (£1,315). At the CeBit IT show in Germany last week, Sony announced plans for a Vaio notebook with a Blu-ray Disc drive.

On the HD-DVD side, Warner Home Video said it will start selling HD-DVD titles on 18 April. The first movies will include Million Dollar Baby, The Last Samurai and The Phantom of the Opera. The discs will cost $29 (£17) each and will be followed by 17 additional titles including Batman Begins, Constantine, Training Day and The Matrix, the company said in a statement.

Warner's timing – this is the first HD-DVD content to get a launch date – calls into question Toshiba's plan to put HD-DVD players on sale in March.

Toshiba said Friday that it intends to synchronise the launch of its first players, the $500 (£290) HD-A1 and $800 (£460) HD-XA1, with the availability of content. The launch plans of other studios are yet to be announced, but Toshiba's statement indicates its player could be delayed a month should content not be available until April.

A similar delay could hit Samsung's April launch plans, since the earliest Blu-ray Disc content announced to date is set to go on sale on 23 May.


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