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Samsung Delays Blu-ray Player Until June

Samsung said last Monday evening that it has postponed the planned May 23 delivery of the first U.S. Blu-ray Disc player to June 25, in order to “complete compatibility testing with several Blu-ray test discs that will become available in late April from product manufacturers and content providers.”

According to a statement issued by the company, the BD-P1000 player, which will carry a $999 expected street retail price, is ready now for mass production in Suwon, South Korea, but must await compatibility testing prior to launch.

“We still anticipate that the Samsung BD-P1000 will be the first Blu-ray player to launch at a national level in the United States,” the statement said.

The company also took the opportunity to announce that it has expanded the feature set of the player from the specifications announced at International CES to include full 1,920 by 1,080p output capability via HDMI for both native and up-converted source material. The player will also now include an 11-in-two multi-memory card interface, instead of the original nine-in-two reader. The added memory card formats include Mini-SD and Memory Stick Pro Duo.

Ironically, the delay had been predicted months earlier by Mark Knox, an advisor to the HD DVD promotion group, who helped to launch Samsung’s first DVD player in the market when that format was first launched. Coincidentally, Samsung also launched one of the first DVD players in the United States and that machine had been plagued with early disc incompatibility issues, requiring an after-market IC upgrade in some machines.

Last December, prior to International CES, Knox told TWICE in a story on the brewing format war that “our fundamental advantage comes from the fact that you will be able to buy HD DVD hardware and software for many months before you are going to be able buy BD hardware and software.”

That notion had been questioned by Blu-ray Disc supporters. Knox said, “for any new optical disc format there is a certain amount of technical work that needs to be done, and that can take longer than you anticipate.”

Knox added that the first HD DVD players are expected to reach U.S. shelves “very, very soon, which is a slightly different phrase from what I interpret from the other side as ‘any day now.’ “

According to the Toshiba spokesman, the first HD DVD players launched in Japan last week and the first U.S. models are expected to arrive just before April 18, when Warner Bros. Home Video said it will deliver its first HD DVD titles to market. That would give HD DVD almost a two-month head start on Samsung’s Blu-ray player.

The biggest Blu-ray manufacturers Sony, Panasonic and Pioneer, have all announced late summer launch plans for their first players.

HD DVD will also have the added advantage of a significantly lower price tag. Toshiba’s entry HD DVD player will see $599 street retails, $400 lower than the Samsung unit.

Meanwhile, with the recent announcement that Universal Studios — the sole studio offering only HD DVD software — will not include image constraint tokens on its HD DVD titles, most of the major Hollywood Studios have now said their high-definition discs will allow full high-definition signal output over analog component video outputs on Blu-ray and HD DVD players, in addition to protected HDMI outputs. The studios said they will reserve the right to add the tokens at a later date if they determine wide-scale piracy is taking place using the unprotected analog ports.