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Toshiba Plans 4th Quarter HD-DVD Launch

1/06/2005 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Toshiba will use International CES to announce plans to launch its first HD-DVD player and recorder in the fourth quarter of 2005, said Jodi Sally, Toshiba Digital A/V Group marketing director.

The news follows recent independent announcements from Warner Brothers, Universal Home Video and Paramount that each has committed to support HD-DVD players with software.

Both the player and recorder will play back HD-DVD video, DVD video and CD audio discs. They will include HDMI with HDCP and IEEE-1394 with DTCP outputs, and will add Ethernet terminals for interactive applications.

The player will support Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound formats, and will include optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, according to Sally.

The player is expected to see a suggested minimum advertised price of $999 at launch, but pricing has not been set for the recorder version. Sally said the player will arrive in the market first, and the recorder will follow at a date to be determined, in part, by conditions in the Japanese market.

Both models will support discs encoded at video resolutions of up to 1,920 by 1,080p, if studios elect to use that format. The decks will output display formats that match the native display requirements of most digital television screens, Sally said.

She added that specifications had not been finalized on the HD-DVD recorder and, therefore, couldn't say whether or not the next-generation deck would support the “multi-drive” DVD recording capability that allows its standard DVD recorders to record and play back discs in the DVD-RAM/DVD-RW/-R formats.

Toshiba plans to support the players with an aggressive marketing campaign, following the pattern used to launch the first DVD players, Sally said.

“We are planning a market launch with content and retailer support,” Sally said. The latter will include “in-store displays, consumer demonstrations at retail and an extensive consumer advertising campaign, using both print and broadcast media.”

Sally said the advertising campaign will likely start as a pre-launch effort, “probably in the third quarter [of 2005].”

Toshiba will also use CES to unveil a number of new standard DVD recorders, which will continue to use the company's aforementioned Multi-Drive system. The model lineup has been expanded with additional SKUs across key configurations of standalone DVD recorders, DVD recorder/VHS combo decks and DVD recorder/ Digital Video Recorder (DVR) combo systems.

Toshiba's 2005 designs focus on simplified operation. All models will add the company's proprietary EZ Navi on-screen menu system, in addition to new simplified editing functions and recording modes.

This year, key step-up models will implement the TV Guide Onscreen electronic program guide. In addition, HDMI connections have been expanded to more models.

The D-R4 will be Toshiba's entry standalone Multi-Drive DVD recorder, which will ship in February at a $249 street price. Key features include a slim enhanced cosmetic design using blue illumination under the tray, and five recording mode selections of 1, 2, 3, 4 or 6 hours per disc.

The D-VR4 is a step-up Multi-Drive DVD recorder with built-in VHS VCR. It will ship in March at $349. Features include bi-directional dubbing between the VCR and DVD recorder for non-copyrighted material.

The D-VR4X is a step-up DVD recorder/VCR combo that will ship in June at $499. Features include TV Guide Onscreen EPG and a 5-in-2 memory card slot supporting the SD, Memory Stick, CompactFlash, XD and MMC flash media formats.

Also added are front-panel DV (1394) input, HDMI output and video up-conversion capability to the 720p or 1,080i high-definition formats for use with digital television sets.

The RD-XS34 is a combination DVD recorder/DVR, which will ship in February at $499. It includes a 160GB hard disk drive to store recordings, TV Guide Onscreen EPG and high-speed dubbing from the hard drive to DVD discs at 32x for DVD-R and 24x for DVD-RAM media.

Toshiba said it would also carry over two previously launched digital media servers featuring TiVo DVRs.

In DVD players, the company will expand its lineup to eight models while bringing in strategic prices points designed to narrow the gap between the tier-one and some of the off-shore brands, while maintaining features, Sally said. The new opening price point for an entry player will be $59, street price.

More players will offer HDMI output, this year, while select models will include a 9-in-2 flash memory card slot.

Toshiba will continue to support multi-channel audio with one single-tray model offering universal DVD-A/SACD support.

Three DVD players will be DVD/VCR combo products starting with the SDV-393 (shipping in March at a $99 street price). The top-of-the-line SDV-593, shipping in May at $179, features HDMI output, up-conversion to 720p and 1,080i, and includes support for HD JPEG images.

In TV combination products, Toshiba will look to “reinforce our market leading position,” Sally said. The company will continue to carry models of TV/VCR, TV/DVD and TriPlay units. Models this year will include a new Glow Remote and on-screen graphical user interface.

TriPlay models are expanded this year with a 14-inch flat-tube unit, and the company's first widescreen high-definition-ready CRT models in the 26W- (March, $699) and 30W-inch (March, $999) screen sizes, and a fully integrated 30W-inch (June, $1,399) model with integrated ATSC/QAM tuner.

The company will also expand its lineup of LCD-based slot-loading DVD player combos, including a 14-inch 4:3 model (April, $549), a 17W-inch 16:9 HDTV monitor (June, $1,799) with 1,280-by-768 resolution and HDMI input, and a 20W-inch 16:9 HDTV monitor (June, $999) with 1,366-by-768 resolution.

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