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
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
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.