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CES Toshiba's $499 HD DVD player to ship in March

The Blu-ray and HD DVD camps used the day before the official opening of this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to fight for the hearts and minds of the media.

Toshiba won the day with the announcement (as a brief note during Microsoft's pre-show keynote) that the first HD DVD player will not only be released in time – in March, three months ahead of Sony’s rival Blu-ray players scheduled for June – but may also cost only a fraction of some Blu-ray players.

Toshiba says it will ship a pair of HD DVD players, the HD-A1 at a suggested retail price of $499 and the HD-XA1 at $799. This significantly undercuts the price of Pioneer's Blu-ray player, which was announced earlier in the day with a pricetag of about $1800.

The more expensive model has a few cosmetic enhancements, a motorised drawer, a backlit remote, and a selection of three different user interfaces, as well as some improvements to construction. It also has a pair of USB ports "for convenient connection of gaming controllers," according to the press release.

Apparently, both players – and all forthcoming HD-DVD players – will only output high-definition resolutions via copy-protected HDMI outputs, so people whose HDTV sets are not featured with HDMI or DVI/HDCP inputs will not be able to enjoy the improved image quality of HD-DVD.

Toshiba will showcase its HD DVD players with 40 movie titles, including Batman Begins, Sahara and Jarhead.

So far, no other manufacturers of Blu-ray players have announced specific pricing for their products. Philips' Rudy Provoost, CEO of the firm's consumer electronics division, mentioned during a pre-show press conference that the price tag will remain a secret for now.

The CE manufacturer will ship its Blu-ray player (BDP9000) and recordable 25 GB and 50 GB discs in the second half of the year, the company said.

NEWS IN BRIEF

– In a speech at CES, Microsoft’s Bill Gates announced that the company plans to deliver a new Xbox 360 external HD DVD drive in 2006. “The new drive will offer millions of Xbox 360 owners the ability to easily enjoy HD DVD movies and will provide consumers with even more choices for experiencing high-definition content, in either physical or digital form.”

– Illustrating the latest in surround sound technology, Dolby Laboratories will showcase its premier multichannel TrueHD sound technology, which offers up to 7.1 discrete channels of lossless audio for next-generation optical media – HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats – bringing audio to home theater that is bit-for-bit identical to original studio masters. The demonstration will also push Dolby TrueHD to its theoretical limit of 14-channel surround sound.

– For its part, competitor DTS will premiere DTS-HD Master Audio, the company’s high definition surround sound solution for next-generation high definition media. “This marks the first public demonstration of high definition video content shown in conjunction with 7.1 discrete channels of surround sound that is bit-for-bit identical to the master soundtrack,” says the company. Previously announced as DTS-HD, DTS-HD Master Audio has been selected as an option in the Blu-ray and HD DVD disc. The company will be holding demonstrations of DTS-HD Master Audio throughout CES.

– Magnum Semiconductor announced that its DVD recording chipset is used in the Mustek DVDR-100xx product, now on sale in Europe. This new product records digital video broadcast, as well as the more typical analogue broadcasts and DV camcorder material.

– Zoran Technology's product and technology demonstrations at CES 2006 include the single-chip Activa 200 family of DVD Recorder reference designs that enable PVR, DTV, and new combo products along with new products from Pioneer, Sansui, Thomson/RCA, Toshiba and others powered by Zoran. Also, demoed is the ninth-generation Vaddis DVD multimedia processor family that enables new features such as DivX 6.0 and new low-power portable players.

– Integrated Silicon Solution Inc. announced a joint development programme with the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) of Taiwan for network DVD Recorder/Player applications. The solution platform will be demonstrated at the CES show. The new network DVD recorder/player adds Flash card reader functionality to the DVD recorder/player and allows pictures, movies, or music to be played from or recorded to Flash cards directly via the DVD system without using a computer.

– CyberLink Corp, a world leader and pioneer in providing integrated solutions for the Digital Home, will demonstrate HD DVD playback at the HD DVD Promotion Group booth. "As the first vendor to supply this key decoder component for Advanced Content, CyberLink plays an important role in realizing the HD DVD promise of superior video quality and high speed Audio/Video codecs," said Ryoichi (Rick) Hayatsu, Chief Engineer at NEC Corporation. "NEC is expecting CyberLink products to lead HD DVD format in the PC market."

– In line with this year's introduction of next-generation Blu-ray and HD DVD devices and the increasing penetration of high definition TV sets, Fuji Photo Film announced that Fujifilm-branded media for the two platforms will be available mid-2006. Prototypes of the new Fujifilm HD DVD and Blu-ray media will be on display at the show.

Story filed 05.01.06

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