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LG Shows At CES Hybrid HD Player

LG Electronics christened its “Super Multi Blue” hybrid HD disc player technology at International CES, where it took the wraps off the world’s first dual-format HD disc player and a similarly capable PC drive.

LG said the dual-format Super Multi Blue player — model BH-100 — will carry a $1,199 suggested retail price when it ships in February.

It will be capable of playing both Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD content, in addition to standard DVDs. DVD content can be up converted to HD 1,080i over its HDMI v1.2 output. The player will not support audio CDs.

Video is output in all major standard and high-definition formats, including native 1,080p HD for Blu-ray and HD DVD media, LG said.

“We’ve developed the Super Multi Blue Player to end the confusion caused by the current competition between Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD. Customers are no longer forced to choose between the two formats,” said H. G. Lee, LG Electronics’ president and chief technology officer. “As full HDTV is already gaining ground, we are hoping that the SMB Player will play the trigger role in expanding and advancing both Full HD TV and high-definition DVD market volume together.”

The unit supports various A/V formats, including MPEG-2, VC-1, H.264 video, MPEG-1/-2 audio, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+, DTS and DTS-HD audio, and includes multiple inputs/outputs such as HDMI v1.2 out, component/composite video outputs, and optical/coaxial/discrete 5.1 channel audio outputs, among others.

Using Blu-ray Disc titles, the player will support BD-Java interactivity, which allows advanced menus and functions to be displayed over running video. However, “the same level of advanced menu interactivity is not available while playing HD DVD discs,” because the player omits the Micorsoft-developed iHD interactivity system, LG said.

The company also unveiled a Super Multi Blue optical disc PC drive. The GGW-H10N, which will sell for “under $1,000” when it ships in the first quarter, is a Blu-ray Disc reader and writer, supporting 50GB media, and an HD DVD-ROM reader. It will also play back and write to DVD and CD disc formats.

LG solicited testimonials from a wide range of consumer electronics movers and shakers in launching the player.

“We know our customers want high-definition content for their HDTVs. We also know a format war keeps people on the sidelines,” stated Mike Vitelli, senior merchandising VP at Best Buy. “With this new dual-format player, LG is offering a viable solution to this dispute. This is the kind of customer-focused approach that Best Buy looks to bring to our customers.”

“By providing a high-definition player that supports both Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD discs, LG is delivering a product that puts the customer first,” said Randy Wick, senior VP and general merchandise manager of consumer electronics at Circuit City Stores. “We applaud the LG customer-friendly approach, as it will serve to alleviate customers’ confusion about the two formats.”

Michael Ahn, president and CEO of LG Electronics North American headquarters, echoed comments from Hollywood and leading retailers in support of LG’s dual-format approach. “The American consumers’ love affair with HDTV is now even stronger thanks to LG’s marriage of Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD. What’s more, our player up-converts standard DVDs to 1,080i resolution, providing compatibility with consumers’ existing movie libraries while improving the picture quality of those discs, too.”

Warner Home Video president Ron Sanders stated, “This is a great first step towards resolving consumer confusion and uncertainty due to the two high-definition formats. The SMB player will allow studios to better meet consumers’ growing demand for high-definition content in both the Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD formats.”

Ironically, Warner Bros. executives announced plans to begin producing a hybrid high-definition disc that would carry both HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc content (see story above).

At the show LG and Warner worked cooperatively in launching each other’s hybrid HD disc approaches.

Meanwhile, LG also announced a newly reduced $15,000 suggested retail on its flagship 71W-inch 1,080p plasma TV.

Pricing on the mammoth plasma panel, model 71PY1M, was slashed $55,000 from its $70,000 introductory price last year. LG cited improved manufacturing efficiencies with enabling the 80 percent price cut.

In other plasma offerings, LG added full HD 1,080p capability to two additional plasmas and more than half of its 20-model LCD TV line.