Samsung Mulling Dual Blu-Ray/HD DVD Player

Samsung Electronics will consider later this year if it will launch a high-definition movie player compatible with both the Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD formats, it said Tuesday.

Samsung is a supporter of the Blu-ray Disc format, and its first player will go on sale in the United States in the next few days. The BD-P1000 is the first consumer Blu-ray Disc player from any manufacturer, and its launch will kick off full competition between the rival formats. Toshiba, which is the main backer of the HD DVD format, started player sales in March.

There are only a few technical differences between the formats, but they’re big enough to make them mutually incompatible. That’s a headache for consumers because most Hollywood studios have initially committed to releasing movies on one or the other disc format but not both.

Samsung is already working on a drive that handles both Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, said Kim Du-Hyon, an assistant manager in Samsung’s home-platform product planning division, in a briefing with reporters at the company’s headquarters in Suwon, South Korea.

"We don’t have a plan to make an HD DVD-only player but are considering a universal player," he said. "We are preparing HD DVD [support] now, and if we launch a universal player, it will be the end of this year or early next year."

Kim underlined Samsung’s belief that Blu-ray Disc will beat HD DVD in the commercial marketplace, but said Samsung will consider a universal player should HD DVD prove as successful as Blu-ray Disc.

Samsung is not alone in working on drives that support both formats, according to industry sources.

While LG Electronics has publicly declared its plans to make drives for both formats, many of the leading Blu-ray Disc backers are also members of the DVD Forum and so have access to HD DVD technology and specifications.

In addition, some companies on each side of the battle have optical disc production joint ventures. Samsung is partnered with Toshiba in Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology and Sony and NEC, which back Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, respectively, formed Sony NEC Optiarc in April this year.

Samsung’s BD-P1000 will go on sale in the United States on June 25 for US$1,000. It will hit Korea in August, Australia and Europe in October and be available worldwide by the end of the year, Samsung said.

-Martyn Williams, IDG News Service (Tokyo Bureau)

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