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Panasonic Blu-ray player due in September

Could be triple the cost of HD-DVD players

The first Blu-ray Disc player from Panasonic will be available in the US this September, the company said yesterday.

Few details about the player were announced, but Panasonic said its launch price could be up to three times more than the first players for the competing HD-DVD format.

Blu-ray Disc is a new optical storage disc technology positioned to replace DVDs as the media of choice for HD (high-definition) movies. It's backed by a number of major consumer electronics companies including Panasonic, Sony, Sharp and Samsung.

However, it faces competition from a rival format called HD-DVD. That format is backed by Toshiba and is also supported by the DVD Forum, Microsoft and Intel.

Panasonic said the DMP-BD10 player will launch at the same time as the company sells its first 'full HD' PDP (plasma display panel) television. There are several different types of video signal judged to be HD; the highest of these, a picture with 1,080 horizontal lines and progressive scanning, has become known as 'full HD', and this has recently become prominent in marketing from flat-panel TV makers.

The Blu-ray Disc player will cost less than $1,500 (about £865), Panasonic said in a statement.

Based on current launch plans, the Panasonic device will lag behind the introduction of HD-DVD by about five months. Toshiba plans to put its first HD-DVD player on sale in the US in April for about $500 (£290). The first Blu-ray Disc player is due from Samsung on 23 May, while Sony has promised a player from July for about $1,000 (£575).

Both HD formats have faced several launch delays. Toshiba had originally planned to launch HD-DVD in late 2005, but it was forced to hold fire because specifications of a content management system were not complete. It revised the release to March, but this has slipped a month because the first films from movie companies won't be available until April.

On the Blu-ray Disc side, launch plans have slipped because of the same delay in the content management system – both formats use a common system called AACS (Advanced Access Content System).

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