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Samsung Sets Blu-ray For April

Las Vegas — Samsung expects to be one of the first manufacturers to market a Blu-ray Disc player in the United States when it ships a $1,000 unit near the end of April, Jim Sanduski, Samsung digital video and audio products group senior marketing VP said at the company’s International CES press conference.

Sanduski said the player, model BD-P1000 ($1,000 suggested retail), will output 1,080i and 720p high-definition signals as well as standard-definition signals. In addition, the player will be supported by a number of movie titles, but he declined to name specific titles or studios that would be ready to offer discs in time for its planned launch date.

If all announced plans are met, Samsung’s Blu-ray Disc unit would follow the introduction of the first HD DVD players from Toshiba, Thomson and Sanyo by about a month, cutting short the first-to-market advantage that HD DVD backers have touted as a key asset in building early market momentum.

However, the price of Samsung’s player would be double that of entry HD DVD players announced at the show.

Sanduski pointed out that Toshiba cut pricing almost in half from previously announced plans for entry HD DVD products before a unit ever reached the market.

“I think they are running a little bit scared,” Sanduski said of the lower announced price for HD DVD players. “There is significant momentum in the Blu-ray camp with Warner Home Video’s decision to support both formats and with the planned launch of Sony’s PlayStation 3.”

He added Samsung’s player should compete well against the lower-priced HD DVD players, given the strength of Blu-ray Disc format supporters and a strong feature set in its player.

“There is some pent-up consumer demand for a prerecorded high-definition disc because there were already more than 10 million digital televisions in the market in 2005, and the installed base is growing very rapidly,” Sanduski said.

Sanduski put aside speculation that Samsung would also support the HD DVD camp by saying that Samsung plans only to market Blu-ray Disc products and has no plans to market or manufacture any products supporting HD DVD.

In other announcements, Samsung said that like Panasonic, it too has reached a deal with leading cable multi-system operator (MSO) Comcast to supply digital cable set-top boxes based on OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) middleware. The multi-year agreement calls for the purchase of 200,000 boxes beginning in 2007 and, subject to certain conditions, an additional 500,000.

The devices will be capable of running advanced video codecs such as all facets of MPEG- 4 including H264 as well as MPEG-2, Samsung said. In addition, the devices are designed to leverage DOCSIS 2.0 and USB 2.0 to enable advanced interactive applications.

The set-tops are part of Comcast’s newly developed series of highly efficient digital cable set-top boxes, called “RNG.”

In addition, Samsung and Time Warner Cable announced that interactive OCAP digital cable services are running on select Samsung OCAP-compliant HDTVs in Time Warner Cable’s Gastonia, N.C., division. The services and applications include Time Warner Cable’s OCAP Digital Navigator, its in-house developed Interactive Program Guide.

Also continuing to manufacture satellite receiving systems for DirecTV, Samsung announced a combination 10.2W-inch widescreen LCD display with integrated DirecTV tuning/decoding. The device, which is called “FlipTop,” will carry both the DirecTV and Samsung brands and will be marketed by Samsung to its authorized DirecTV dealer network, said Frank Romeo, Samsung digital set-top box marketing VP.

The FlipTop, which will ship in March at a $499 minimum advertised price, includes a swivel design with a back-lit control panel allowing it to be mounted under a cabinet (mounting kit included) or on a table-top with the TV image and control panel icons always being illuminated right side up.

Samsung is positioning the unit as an all-in-one entertainment solution for the kitchen, bedroom, office or garage.

Features include 10 watts of stereo audio power, integrated stereo speakers, headphone jack, A/V inputs, bilingual user interface (English and Spanish), three-device universal remote and three-day Advanced Program Guide.