Go ahead and indulge your taste for high-def video -- but not right now.
We all want a Blu-ray Disc player and a PlayStation 3, but they cost too much -- and it's all your fault

Please don't buy a Blu-ray or HD-DVD player. It's not because they aren't great products that offer spectacular visual quality. For the most part, they are and they do. No, the reason for my request is simple and completely self-serving: I want one, and I want to pay less for it.

The problem is that the components -- specifically the blue laser diodes needed to read the discs -- are in short supply. This makes finished products that contain blue lasers expensive and hard to get. It's basic supply and demand: If everybody else just stops buying the high-def players, the price will drop and supply will increase, all of which is good for me.

I suppose I should be more public-spirited about the thing. After all, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Since I want to buy one and satisfy my itch for HD quality, I should expect you to feel the same way. But if we all keep squabbling over them, the only people who end up with the devices are those with higher disposable incomes than mine. This is what I have a problem with.

Take the Sony PlayStation 3. The shortage of blue lasers led to a shortage of the Blu-ray-equipped video game machines, ultimately resulting in the fact that I still don't have one. The high cost of these high-performance laser devices is also largely to blame for the sky-high introductory costs of PS3s and Blu-ray players. Industry sources estimate that the tiny lasers cost manufacturers about $100 each. When you start out with a single component that's worth a C-note, the bill of materials gets hefty in a hurry. In fact, the final sales price of the blue laser-based devices may not be that much higher the actual manufacturing cost. The important thing for us all to remember in this is that it's potentially bad for me.

So what's up with these little blue lasers, and why are they so expensive? It turns out they are darned hard to make, which is why they cost roughly ten times more than the common red lasers that are used in conventional DVD players and related consumer devices. Experts in the field attribute the high production costs to die size limitations in the gallium nitride (GAN) wafers that are required to make the blue lasers. Until they can turn out bigger GAN wafers, and subsequently produce blue lasers in sufficient quantities to make the resulting CE devices cheap and plentiful, I'll just have to ask you all to back off. As soon as prices come down to a level I can afford, I'll stock up on Blu-ray and HD-DVD players, along with a PS3 or two. Then I'll pass the word that it's okay for everyone else to get back in the market and run prices up as high as they like.

Thanks again for your considerate cooperation.

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton

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