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High-def movies will soon reach the mass market thanks to Wally's World

Reports came in late last week of Wal-Mart planning to stock inexpensive high-definition disc movie players for under $300. The retailer reportedly is ordering 2 million players produced by Great Wall Corporation in China, with parts developed by Taiwan’s Fuh Yuan and Japan’s TDK, in a $100 million deal.

Although the news was initially pegged as a huge boost to the HD DVD camp, closer examination and more accurate translation of Chinese reports indicate that the players for Wal-Mart are “Blu-ray (or blue light) HD DVD” players, adding an extra layer of confusion to the matter. Both next-generation optical formats use blue or violet lasers, so unless the player is to be compatible with both HD DVD and Blu-ray, the exact nature of this low-priced will be unknown until we get official English confirmation.

Wal-Mart spokesperson Mellissa O’Brien would not comment on the apparent deal between the retailer and its Chinese manufacturing partners, but did offer to Home Media Magazine, “[Most] of the shoppers asking about and purchasing either Blu-ray or HD DVD are already pretty savvy technically about both — they are the kind of consumer that absolutely wants the very best and latest in quality that's available. It's not quite yet a product the average shopper is attune too, but we anticipate that will change very soon as prices continue to come down.”

The release date of the player is just as widely speculated upon as the price. However, reports cite the manufacturer’s plans of fulfilling the entire 2 million unit order by the end of 2008 point to a release likely within a year’s time.

Toshiba recently dropped the price of its entry-level HD DVD player to $399, making a low-cost high-definition player for under $300 look extremely plausible. Blu-ray hardware maintains a higher price point in the market, with Sony planning for a $599 standalone player coming this summer.

Currently, the cheapest Blu-ray Disc player is in the form of the PlayStation 3, which until recently, allowed consumers to buy into the format for $499 with the 20GB console. Sony is now offering only the 60GB model, citing overwhelming consumer preference.

For Xbox 360 owners, the least expensive way to watch HD DVD movies is with the add-on drive which retails for $199. The drive also works on high-end computers, giving home theater PC owners another cost-effective option.

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RE: Inexpensive?
By mars777 on 4/23/2007 7:03:41 AM , Rating: 2
I'd like it to be that way.
But here we have media published on it. And as long as Sony sticks with BD (or others with HDDVD) I won't be able to watch (let's say) XMEN 4 unless i have both players.

RE: Inexpensive?
By AlexWade on 4/23/2007 8:06:19 AM , Rating: 3
Why watch X-Men 4 when X-Men 3 made me gouge out my eyes it was so bad.

There is plenty of content on HD DVD. There isn't much more content on BR. That is partially because paranoid studios like Fox are waiting for BD+ and some studios don't want to dumb down their content for BR. Where is Batman Begins or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Blu-Ray? Warner Bros. is a neutral studio.

Cheap HD DVD will mean lots of people will buy them, which means content will follow. The only studio you need to worry about delaying is Sony. Of course, not cheap HD DVD players will mean Blu-Ray wins by attrition.

One other bonus to the new formats. HD DVD removes all region coding. With Blu-Ray it is an option. That means some movies that Blu-Ray in the US are HD DVD in Europe, which means you can import HD DVD movies from abroad that you might not have been able to get in NA. The same is true for Blu-Ray too, right now.

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