By James Wells and agencies

USA: Retailers in North America including Best Buy have broken the 25 June embargo date for the release of the first Blu-ray Disc player, made by Samsung, by already placing it on sale.

The BD-P1000 has been spotted in Best Buy stores in the USA retails for $US999.99 ($A1,350).

Samsung is expected to release the Blu-ray player in Australia and Europe in October and in Korea in August. Toshiba began supplying its first HD DVD player, the HD A1 in April for $US499.

Consumer electronics analysts and enthusiasts believe this is the beginning of a high definition format war, reminiscent of the Beta vs VHS era.

However, like the DVD recordable format war which ended up becoming a multi-format affair, Samsung and LG have not ruled out creating a dual format product to alleviate consumer anxiety. Samsung has ruled out making an HD DVD-only player.

The decision by Samsung is seen as a back-up plan in case the HD DVD format gains market share. With most of the major manufacturers supporting Blu-ray, most analysts believe the odds are tipped in its favour.

Sony has accelerated the release of software to accompany the move by Samsung, by releasing Blu-ray Disc software for the high definition playback device.

A spokesperson for Sony Pictures in Australia was unaware of the release of the seven titles in North America including 50 First Dates, The Fifth Element, Hitch, House of Flying Daggers, XXX, The Terminator and Underworld Evolution.

So far 25 titles have been launched in HD DVD including major titles – The Last Samurai and Cindarella Man.

Toshiba hopes to receive its first branded player HD DVD by the end of the year.

“We are hoping for a release in Australia by the end of the year, but at the moment nothing is confirmed,” Toshiba’s Australian corporate commercial supervisor, Jonathan Peart said.

HD DVD is supported by DVD’s inventor Toshiba, NEC, Intel and Microsoft as well as on the software side – Warner Bros and Universal.

Blu-ray is supported by its developer Sony as well as Panasonic, Pioneer, LG Electronics, TDK, Sharp, Thomson, Hitachi, Mitsubishi Electric, HP, Dell, Apple, Philips as well as Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney and Warner Bros on the software side.