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Maxell Slates Recordable BD, HD DVD Media

Fair Lawn, N.J. — Maxell will begin shipping high-definition blank media to retailers beginning in August.

The recording media giant will begin its effort on the Blu-Ray Disc format side with write-once (BD-R) and rewriteable (BD-RE) versions.

Maxell will roll out the rival format’s HD DVD discs in September. It plans to ship write-once and rewriteable, or what the DVD Forum calls “re-recordable,” versions.

Executive VP Don Patrican said that pricing will be set closer to the release dates in a nod to a “rapidly changing pricing atmosphere” in the blank media category.

Patrican expressed his concern over “the incredibly complex challenge” of navigating through the early days of a format war. “Success in the high-definition media category will be anything but a slam dunk,” he said, citing a litany of problems including consumer confusion, pricing issues and probable product returns.

He recalled “the tremendous amount of returns of DVD media in the first year” of that format’s existence as an example of what can go wrong when consumers don’t fully understand a new technology.

To combat this, Patrican said, Maxell has taken a proactive approach to education, drawing on what he calls the company’s “category management expertise.” Technical training for retail partners is underway, and a concerted effort has been made to create clear and simple packaging to help consumers choose the right product.

Still, Maxell is optimistic about the success of high-definition media in general. “HD is the greatest new technology we’ve had in this industry in a long time,” Patrican said, noting that the Consumer Electronics Association forecasts that the household penetration of HD sets will hit 82 percent by 2010.

Asked when he sees the market developing into a mature, profitable one for blank media providers, Patrican predicted “sometime in 2007,” adding that “hardware pricing will play the most critical role” in consumer acceptance of the new technology.