Panasonic said on Tuesday it will start selling a Blu-ray high-definition disc player in September for under $1,500 and sees up to 5 million of these new DVD players sold industry-wide in their first year. "We think adoption will be strong, based on broad support. For the first 12 months, we expect 4 million to 5 million units to be sold beginning in May and across all platforms, including standalones, computers, and gaming systems," said Reid Sullivan, vice president merchandising, Panasonic's entertainment group. Sullivan said Panasonic sees no need to develop a player to support both Blu-ray and the rival format known as HD DVD, despite a raging war between the two standards and a move to make a dual player for both formats by LG Electronics Inc. "Unfortunately, there is some confusion between the two but based on the wide support for Blu-ray in the industry, we expect the (growth) curve to be quite steep. We recognize that its best to have one format," said Sullivan.
The arrival of Panasonic's Blu-ray player will coincide around the debut of its new 103-inch flat screen TV, estimated by Panasonic to cost several times more than the $10,000 price of its 65-inch Plasma TV. Panasonic is a division of Panasonic Corp. of North America, the principal North American subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. "We're introducing technologies that will all tie in together to propel Blu-ray. The flat panel or plasma TV is the engine pulling the train," said Sullivan.
Panasonic's Blu-ray player will compete against other Blu-ray players from Samsung, Pioneer, and Sony as well as players supporting rival HD DVD, championed by Toshiba. The battle between the two formats has divided Hollywood and the computer industry and is being likened to the Betamax/VHS war of over 25 years ago, which led to customer confusion and widespread company losses.
While more Hollywood studios and electronics makers have sided with the Blu-ray camp, led by Sony, last fall Microsoft revived HD DVD when it said would support Toshiba's technology. Microsoft is expected to introduce an external HD DVD drive that will turn the Xbox 360 into a high-definition DVD player.
Sony's much-anticipated PlayStation 3 game console will support Blu-ray and is expected to boost the install base for that format, although Sony recently delayed the debut of PS3 until early November. Toshiba last week said it may delay the launch of its HD DVD player from March to mid-April. By offering discs with far more capacity than current DVDs, the groups hope to breath new life into the $24 billion home video market.