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Samsung Fully Supports Blu-ray, Denies HD DVD Combo Reports

Seoul, South Korea — Reports of an imminent Samsung universal Blu-ray Disc/HD DVD player have been exaggerated.

A variety of mainstream media outlets last week carried the story of an “announcement” that Samsung intended to introduce a dual-format, high-definition DVD player late this year or early next. It sounded like a compelling story, but a false one.

Samsung’s “announcement” of a universal Blu-ray/HD DVD player emanated from three days of briefings held at Samsung’s corporate headquarters in Suwon and Seoul, South Korea, for a small group of international press representatives recently.

These briefings covered a variety of Samsung product and promotional plans for Blu-ray and HDTV.

Also unveiled was a new 0.04-inch-thick GSM cellphone, which will be labeled the SGH-X820 for the European market. No alpha-numeric designation or U.S. carrier was announced, but the phone should be available here in the fall.

While Samsung has been forced to express increased devotion to Blu-ray in the wake of the universal player reports, the company does plan aggressive consumer and retail promotional campaigns to back up its Blu-ray and HDTV products.

Samsung brought the first Blu-ray player to a limited number of stores, the BD-P1000 ($999), last Sunday.

Samsung also intends to beef up its product supply chain management and improve its product introduction schedule in an effort to unseat Sony as the world’s number one HDTV power.

What precipitated the widely-reported universal player story was a product roadmap slide shown during the Blu-ray presentation that included a picture of a universal player under a “3Q 2006” label.

However, as its executives tried to explain through interpreters, this product roadmap indicated Samsung’s ability to produce such a player, not its intention to actually do so.

After being questioned about the slide, Du-hyon Kim, an assistant manager in Samsung’s home platform product planning group, said through an interpreter, “We are considering a player that can play BD and HD-DVD, a universal player. We can’t say when we might introduce such a player. We are preparing the HD-DVD right now. If we launch a universal player, the decision would be made at the end of this year or early next year.”

Sensing that these comments might be misinterpreted, Kim quickly clarified Samsung’s position. “Samsung has no intention to join the HD DVD player market,” Kim insisted. “But if market trends are going to HD DVD or to a universal player, then we are going too. But we are concentrating on Blu-ray. A universal player introduction will be based on the market.”

Kim also noted that while Samsung has had “communications and alliances” with Toshiba on standard DVD product, the two companies have no formal licensing agreements on HD DVD.

In the wake of the misinterpretation and subsequent reportage of this universal player in the mainstream media, Samsung issued a “clarification” that it is “fully committed” to Blu-ray.

This leaves LG as the only Blu-ray supporter with plans for a universal Blu-ray/HD DVD player.

Samsung forecasts that 620,000 Blu-ray and HD DVD players will be sold worldwide in 2006, 400,000 play-only decks and 220,000 recorders, which are not yet available in the United States but have been available in Asia for nearly a year.

Sixty percent of these units will be Blu-ray and 40 percent HD DVD, despite Samsung being the only consumer Blu-ray product currently on the market. Sales will jump to 3.18 million next year, including 750,000 recorders, according to Samsung predictions, 10.05 million (2.55 million recorders) in 2008, 21.4 million (2.5 million recorders) in 2009, and 39 million (9 million recorders) in 2010.