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Samsung Adds Third Blu-ray HTiB

New York — Samsung will expand its selection of home theater in a box (HTiB) systems equipped with Blu-ray players to three models with the August shipment of a $799-suggested model, the 5.1-channel HT-BD2E.

It will join two 7.1-channel systems that will remain in the line through the fourth quarter. They are the $999 HT-BD2S, available earlier this year, and the $1,499 HD-BD2T, available since late last year.

Only Samsung and Panasonic offer HTiBs with included Blu-ray players, but the new HT-BD2E is the most aggressively priced Blu-ray-equipped HTiB system announced to date, said Reid Sullivan, marketing VP for digital audio, video and imaging. A Panasonic model retails for an everyday $999. “As the Blu-ray market broadens,” Sullivan said, “more people will be interested in home theater systems with built-in Blu-ray.”

Samsung’s three models feature integrated single-disc BD 1.0 Blu-ray player, HDMI-CEC, 1080p up-scaling of DVD content, outboard subwoofer, selectable 24/60 fps BD playback, Ethernet port for firmware upgrades, FM tuner, no AM tuner, and decoders for all surround formats approved for use on BD discs except for the DTS HD Master lossless-compression format. The systems also play CDs encoded with MP3, JPEG and WMA files.

The BD2E features five small satellite speakers, a passive subwoofer and 800 watts of RMS power, whereas the other two models feature active subwoofer and total 1,100-watt amplification. The $999 BD2S uses small satellites for all seven main channels, and the $1,499 BD2 features four tower speakers, two satellites for the back surrounds and a center-channel speaker.

To date, sales of Samsung’s first two Blu-ray HTiBs “met expectations based on price points and distribution,” said digital audio marketing manager James Kiczek. Sales of a $549 HT-AS720 5.1-channel HTiB, often displayed by retailers with a separately available Samsung Blu-ray player, exceeded expectations, he added. The system lacks included DVD or BD player, but dealers display it with a cosmetically matching Samsung BD player, and some dealers package the combo at one price.

For the first half, Samsung posted significant gains in retail-level unit and dollar sales of HTiBs sold with and without DVD players, Kiczek said. He attributed the gains in part to growing Samsung brand recognition, stepping up performance and cosmetics to match Samsung flat-panel TVs, distribution into new regional chains and expanded assortments within existing retailers.

Kiczek cited NPD statistics showing the brand won top unit-sale share in DVD-equipped HTiBs in the first half and was second in unit share in the total HTiB segment, consisting of models with and without DVD. During the year-ago period, Samsung unit-share rank in both HTiB segments was fourth.

In retail-level dollars, Samsung’s share in both HTiB categories rose several notches to fourth place in the first half of this year, he said.

Samsung’s gains come despite NPD statistics showing declines in HTiB unit and dollar sell-through during the first half, Kiczek said.

In related audio categories, Samsung announced:

·         its first MP3 charging cradle with embedded speakers. The 2-watt device, shipping in August, features 24-pin connector to dock directly with Samsung MP3 players and portable media players (PMPs). It retails for a suggested $39 without AC adapter and $59 with AC adapter. When plugged into an AC outlet, the cradle charges the docked portable. When not plugged into AC, the cradle reproduces the player’s music using the player’s internal battery, said Matthew Durgin, senior marketing manager for portable digital A/V.

·         a firmware upgrade to the touchscreen-equipped YP-P2 PMP, available in 4GB and 8GB versions with stereo Bluetooth. The downloadable upgrade adds voice recording and Bluetooth gaming, enabling wireless multiplayer gaming. The company hopes to make a running change to the player beginning in September.

·         an August ship date for its first Windows Media Center extender, originally due in April. The $199 device, unlike the six other extenders available from four other companies, features HDMI-CEC, enabling behind-TV or behind-cabinet placement because it can be controlled via the remote supplied with HDMI-CEC flat-panel TVs, said San Schinasi, senior marketing manager for the visual display group. An IR remote is included for use with other TVs. Also unlike competing models, Samsung’s extender features a higher resolution (720p) on-screen interface, he added. It networks to a PC via Ethernet cable or a separately sold 802.11a, b, g or n wireless module.

Panasonic’s $999-everyday BT100 features integrated BD 1.1 profile (Bonus View) player, playback of all authorized Blu-ray surround formats, embedded iPod dock, memory card slot and five speakers plus subwoofer. The surround speakers are wireless, and optional wireless speakers at $199/pair add 7.1-channel playback.