By Matthew Henry
SYDNEY: Samsung will be the first consumer electronics company to introduce a Blu-ray high definition optical disc player to the Australian market when it launches the BD-P1000 in mid-October this year, the company announced today.
The player heralds the birth of consumer high definition optical disc players in Australia, offering consumers 1080p high definition video playback from Blu-ray movie discs and backwards compatibility with DVDs.
In time, Samsung expects Blu-ray will replace DVD as the industry-standard optical disc format.
“Australia is one of the first countries in the world to launch Blu-ray and Samsung appreciates just how quickly Australians adopt new technology,” said Samsung Australia marketing manager – AV, Michael Apte.
“Consumers have embraced plasma and LCD high definition displays. With the right education, we are confident Australia will embrace Samsung Blu-ray as an integral part of their high definition home theatre.”
Samsung will follow-up with a Blu-ray recorder in the first quarter of 2007, which is likely to feature a high definition digital tuner.
“I am sure within six months time we will have more Blu-ray players, but it depends on the uptake among mass market consumers as well,” Samsung technical marketing manager, John Frgaidakis told current.com.au.
Fragidakis says live demonstrations at retail level will be critical for convincing consumers of the benefits of Blu-ray over DVD. High definition video on a Blu-ray disc has nearly five times the picture resolution of a DVD due to its greater data storage capacity, offering consumers sharper and clearer images.
“We are going to put some money behind Blu-ray and show how it works. We’ve already got some demonstration discs that go through some features, like Blu-ray having five times the capacity of DVD, 32 audio streams and 1080p picture quality. We will show comparisons between DVD and Blu-ray,” he said.
Samsung expects to be the only brand with a Blu-ray player in the Australian market this side of Christmas, and will initially limit the distribution of the product to specialist retailers who attract home theatre die-hards.
“It’s like with any new technology, the early adopters are the technofiles and then probably what we will see first quarter next year will be more mass market adoption, particularly when there are more players in the market,” said Fragidakis.
Pricing has not yet been set, but Samsung has confirmed it will be more expensive than the Blu-ray-equipped Sony PlayStation 3 launcing on 17 November for RRP $829.
“We will be the first brand to market with a dedicated movie player, and really the people who will purchase this will be the technofiles who want the latest and greatest. Plus, it will have our HyperVision upscaling technology which will upscale DVDs to 1080p, so from a consumer’s point of view their existing DVD library will be able to playback in high definition,” he said.
The BD-P1000 features a 10-in-2 memory card reader which will upscale JPEG images to 1080p for display on a high definition flat panel TV or projector.
Around 10 Blu-ray movie titles are expected to be available at the time of launch, and up to 170 by Christmas from a variety of Hollywood studios.
According to Fragidakis, seven of the eight major Hollywood studios are now behind Blu-ray, and the company expects the wide support of consumer electronics companies and movie studios will secure the victory over rival high definition format HD-DVD and its main supporter, Toshiba.
Fragidakis believes Sony has handled Blu-ray better than it did the failed Beta tape format, which was shot down in a format war with VHS in the 1980s.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t go down the same road as the old VHS and Beta – we all know that Beta was the better format, but VHS got the nod. I think the difference in the past was that while Beta wasn’t really released by Sony – whereas JVC let VHS go to everybody – now we are seeing Blu-ray available to everybody,” he said.
Toshiba’s Australian distributor, Castel Electronics, has not confirmed a release date for its first HD-DVD player.
“We are expecting the player to launch around the end of the year, but we haven’t got a firm date yet,” said Castel advertising manager, Randall Crocker.
HD-DVD was long favoured in the so-called format war due to its ability to hit the market first. But in the Australian market at least, this now looks unlikely to occur.
However, Crocker believes there is still plenty of time for HD-DVD, and that the market is not yet ready to decide.
“Both camps will have to be involved in educating consumers before there is mass uptake. Education is going to take a bit of time, and not eveybody is ready for it. HD-DVD is coming, and when it comes it is going to be big, we just can’t confirm any details yet,” said Crocker.