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Saturday, April 01, 2006

World's First HD DVD Player Released

Toshiba has initiated the Japanese rollout of the first commercially available HD DVD player, a next-generation device that promises to take home entertainment to a higher level with superior digital picture quality and sound. The device's launch ups the ante in the competition with the rival Blu-Ray high-definition DVD format backed by Sony.

The HD-XA1 player can play prerecorded HD DVD movies and other content, with support for next-generation surround-sound formats. In addition to being able to play new high-def movies, the drive can play standard DVDs with resolution scaled to HD TV displays.

The player's pop-up menu not only can display movie chapters with thumbnails while movies play, but also lets users navigate menus without having to pause playback.

In addition, the drive features a Picture in Picture (PIP) function that offers the ability to play supplementary video over the main program, allowing viewers to watch commentary about the making of a movie while it plays.

Video Product Portfolio

Toshiba reported that global sales of DVD players and recorders reached some 370 million units by the end of 2005. In Japan, the penetration ratio of DVD players and recorders reached 49 percent of households by the end of March.

In bringing the first HD DVD player to market, Toshiba is hoping to spur adoption of the next-generation DVD format and to stimulate the sale of content-creation software for developing movies based on the HD DVD specification.

The Japanese electronics giant also is poised to deliver notebook PCs with HD DVD players and recorders.

Last week, Toshiba announced that it has pushed back the launch date of HD DVD players in the U.S. until April, a month later than planned, in an effort to have the debut coincide with new movie releases from film studios.

New Format Delays

Both Sony and Toshiba have delayed the introduction of their high-definition DVD formats because of problems ironing out the final specs for their built-in digital-rights management technologies. The delay forced Sony to announce that it is postponing the launch of its Blu-Ray-enabled PlayStation 3 console.

Earlier this week, Matsushita Electric announced it will start selling its first Panasonic-branded Blu-Ray players in North America in September.

Sony Electronics already has introduced an array of Blu-Ray Disc (BD) products, taking the wraps off of a high-definition DVD player, a BD-enabled desktop computer, and an internal BD drive.

Sony's BDP-S1 disc player, priced at $1,000, will ship in July with an output feature that will let those who have first-generation HD TV sets play Blu-Ray video content.

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