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HD DVD player priced rock-bottom $98 - for a week

Christmas has come early to hidef media fans as the big discount chain Wal-Mart lowered the price of the second-generation Toshiba HD DVD player (HD-A2 model) to $98. The store claims it sold 90,000 units in the first week of November. This week, the HD-A2 is back up to $199 on Wal-Mart’s Web site, with a mail-in offer for five free HD DVD movies.

Other chains that matched the discounted price, both in stores and online, brought the total sold to nearly 100,000 units. Add the estimated 320,000 stand-alone HD DVD players already in homes, and total household penetration is at about 420,000 units — a number format backers expect will exceed 500,000 units by the end of this month.

Best Buy announced it will match Wal-Mart price. Also, reports surfaced that K-Mart may not carry the competing Blu-ray hardware this holiday season because the price of those players was too high compared to HD DVD equipment.

On the Blu-ray side, the cheapest stand-alone players — from Sony, Samsung and Sharp — list for $499, with selling the Sony BDP-5300 for $439, the Samsung BD-P1400 for $405 and the Sharp Aquos BDHP20U for $414. The PlayStation 3, which also plays Blu-ray discs, lists as low as $399. It’s $389 at Wal-mart. The Sony BDP-S300 is $449 and comes with seven free movies.

The Blu-ray camp is not inclined to follow the HD DVD price cut, according to Sony Electronics President Stan Glasgow quoted in a TV Predictions report. Blu-ray players will unlikely fall below $399 this holiday season.
According to Glasgow, Blu-ray still has the advantage of having more titles to choose from than HD DVD making Blu-ray a more attractive choice, with more titles to reach the market this season and in the beginning of 2008.

Passing the 500,000 unit mark boosts HD DVD overall lead in stand-alone player sales, but is still short of the installed base of Sony's PlayStation 3 game console, which comes with a built-in Blu-ray player which is estimated at over 2.2 million in the US to date. HD DVD backers will point out though, that the majority of PS3 owners are not believed to use the console as a Blu-ray player.

Story filed 11.11.07

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