Sony announces Blu-ray player, after-market PC drive and Vaio PC

Las Vegas (NV) - Sony and Toshiba have begun unveiling their product strategies for the introduction of the first HD video generation. Toshiba will be first to market, but Sony appears to have a more comprehensive lineup: Today, the company announced a Blu-ray writer for the PC, a 1080p-capable player for the family room and pricing for Blu-ray recordable discs.

Just a few hours after Warner Hove Video (WHV) had announced its first batch of HD DVCD videos as well as pricing for the movies, Sony fired its next shot in what is expected to become a fierce battle for leadership in the high definition video market. Among the announcements are three new products to be released in the second half of this year: A Blu-ray player will be arriving in July, a Blu-ray equipped Vaio PC and after market writer for the PC later this year.

It has been known since CES that Blu-ray players will be substantially more expensive than competing HD DVD players - with prices starting at $500 for HD DVD devices versus $1000 for their Blu-ray counterparts. Sony, however, today delivered a first justification for the higher price as the Blu-ray player BDP-S1 will be able to but deliver 1080p ("progressive") resolution, while both announced HD DVD players will only be able to deliver 1080i ("interlaced"). 1080p is generally considered to offer a superior image quality when compared to 1080i.

The BDP-S1 will support most popular video codecs, including MPEG2, MPEG4-AVC and VC1, according to Sony. Analog component output for 1080i has been included for consumers who own HD-capable televisions without HDMI interface. The device will also be offering 1080p upscaling through HDMI, Sony said. While specifications of Samsung's first Blu-ray player, which is expected to debut on 23 May, are unknown so far, the BDP-S1 is believed to be the first Blu-ray player to bring "interactivity" to the TV screen. The player will include a BD-Java and apparently a dedicated Java processor to enable "interactive" applications and video games - which at CES have been promised to rival the quality of console games. The BDP-S1 will be compatible with DVD/DVD+/-R/ +/-RW encoded discs and will sell for about $1000 when released.

Additionally, Sony announced a Vaio PC with an integrated Blu-ray recorder than can handle write-one and rewriteable Blu-ray media. There also will be an after market PC drive that can record to BD-R and BD-RE discs with capacities of 25 and 50 GB. Pricing of the Vaio PC will be about $2300; the price for the drive has not been announced, but sources at CES indicated that consumers should expect to pay around $1000 for the first generation of Blu-ray writers.

The after market BWU-100A will be recording on BD-R (write-once) and BD-RE (rewriteable) 25 GB and 50 GB discs at 2x speed, which means that a 25 GB discs can be filled in about 30 minutes. The drive will also support recording of standard single layer 4.7 GB DVD+/-R / +/-RW, double/dual Layer 8.5 GB DVD+/-R, DVD-RAM and CD-R/-RW media, Sony said. The drive comes in a standard half-height computer bay form factor with a parallel ATAPI interface. Sony promised to include "comprehensive" authoring software for capturing, editing, and burning high-definition personal content. However, the highest resolution supported will be limited to 1080i.

For the first time, Sony also announced pricing of recordable Blu-ray media. As with every new media generation, manufacturers will be charging a premium for the new technology and pricing for Blu-ray media apparently will be about $1 for every GB. According to Sony, 25 GB BD-R and BD-RE discs will be available in April for about $20 and $25 each, respectively. The 50 GB BD-R and BD-RE dual-layer discs will come in "subsequent" months for about $48 and $60.

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Sony to introduce Blu-ray in May
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