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LG Electronics, one of the world’s largest producers of consumer electronics and peripherals, on Friday said it would release its universal blue-laser player, which can playback both Blu-ray and HD DVD formats, in February this year, the company said Friday. While the device is known to lack a feature of HD DVD, this would be compensated by LG’s own software capabilities.

LG Set to Release LG BH100 Commercially

“As announced at CES 2007, the LG Super Multi Blue player (model BH100) will be available for retail sale in the U.S. market in February 2007. LG Electronics has worked through all appropriate channels to bring this unique product to market,” a spokesman for the company said.

Earlier it was reported that highly-anticipated universal player – LG Electronics BH100 – that can playback both Blu-ray and HD DVD discs, does not support iHD feature, advanced interactivity technology used by HD DVD and required to be supported to carry HD DVD-compliant logotype. Without iHD, only the video content from HD DVD discs will playback, while menu systems and other interactive features cannot be used. According to LG, the company has invented a software overcome and now the BH100 will be able to use HD DVD menus, though, the destiny of interactive features is unclear.

“As outlined during the product introduction at CES, the BH100 fully supports Blu-ray disc player standards, and is capable of accessing and playing audio-video content from HD DVD discs in full HD resolution. As previously detailed by LG, it does not access ‘HDi’ interactive content available on many HD DVD discs and as such will not carry a licensed HD DVD logo; however, users can still access LG’s software-based advanced menu for HD DVD,” LG said in a statement.

LG’s BH100 is set to retail for $1199, which is somewhat higher than a Blu-ray disc player by Samsung (e-tail price in the U.S. starts at about $600, according to Froogle) and an HD DVD player by Toshiba (e-tail price in the U.S. starts at about $330, according to Froogle) combined. On the other hand, recommended pricing by LG should be down in several months and eventually pricing of one player should be lower than that of two.

Traditional single-layer DVDs allow consumers to watch movies in 720x480 (NTSC) or 720x576 (PAL) resolution with Dolby Digital audio. The blue-laser discs, such as Blu-ray and HD DVD, provide consumers 1920x1080 progressive (1080p) resolution as well as DTS or Dolby Digital Plus audio along with some additional interactive features.

Even though it is regrettable that several features of the HD DVD may be sacrificed on the first universal Blu-ray/HD DVD player, the market truly needs a hybrid solution, which will allow end-users to watch movies in high resolutions regardless of their format. Moreover, the consumer electronics market has lost hundreds of millions dollars on the confusion of customers. Back in January last year, the Consumer Electronics Association predicted that more than 600 000 high definition DVD players, worth $484 million, would be sold this year. However, delays of shipments and manufacturing issues have twice caused the organization to lower its forecast, and it expected back in November U.S. sales to reach only 200 000 players, worth $181 million, by the end of 2006. Analysts, however, claim that high definition DVD players that use blue lasers fell short off expectations because consumers were uncertain regarding which format will eventually win and decided to keep away from both.

Toshiba’s HD DVD Gets Help

“The capability to play movies in both formats is a huge consumer benefit. With demonstrated strong support from major U.S. retailers and content producers, LG Electronics' introduction of the Super Multi Blue player helps end consumer confusion and hesitation in the high-definition disc marketplace,” the statement by LG reads.

The HD DVD is pushed aggressively by Toshiba, Intel, Microsoft and Nec as well as being standardized at the DVD Forum, which represents over 230 consumer electronics, information technology, and content companies worldwide. Blu-ray is backed by Sony Corp. At present, the Blu-ray is supported by such leading manufacturers as Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Sharp, Sony and others, meanwhile, Toshiba’s HD DVD relies only on the company itself and RCA/Thompson. With the help of LG, HD DVD may actually gain a supporter, even though this supported will not be able to claim HD DVD support officially due to lack of iHD.

Among Hollywood studios HD DVD is supported by New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Blu-ray disc is supported by Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox , Universal Pictures, Walt Disney and Warner Bros.

HD DVD discs can store up to 15GB on a single layer and up to 30GB on two layers. Its competitor, Blu-ray, can store up to 27GB per single layer and up to 50GB on two layers, but Blu-ray discs are more expensive to produce. Furthermore, for consumers there is no difference in quality between the standards.

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