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Sony Ships BDP-S350 Blu-ray Player

UPDATED! New York — Sony revealed at a press review here Wednesday that it is now shipping its $399 BDP-S350 Blu-ray Disc player, which is approximately 40 percent smaller than the previous model, uses between 30 percent and 40 percent less packing material and has been re-engineered to significantly reduce its power consumption.

The player, which has open-distribution status and will be found at most authorized Sony dealers, will also be BD Live upgradeable, Sony said. A firmware update planned for the fall will bring the player the interactive capability, which makes use of an Internet connection and a 1GB USB flash drive (not supplied) that connects with the player’s USB port to supply needed extra persistent memory.

A spokesman said Sony will make a derivative version of the BDP-S350 available to Costco, offering the same core feature set.

In addition, Sony said that starting with the BDP-S350, all of Sony’s Blu-ray players will have an improved six-second boot-up time.

This fall, Sony said, it will deliver the step-up BDP-S550 ($499), which will be BD Live capable out of the box. A 1GB USB flash drive will be supplied with the player to give the device the needed extra memory for interactive features.

The unit will also offer a significantly reduced cabinet size, though it will be slightly larger than the BD-S350. In addition, The S550 also sports 7.1-channel analog outputs like the S500 model that it will replace for compatibility with early-model AV receivers that lack HDMI inputs, said Chris Fawcett, Sony home video marketing VP.

Both models are the company’s first dedicated Blu-ray players to offer BD Live, Deep Color, x.v. color and all of the optional surround-sound formats authorized for use on Blu-ray discs, Fawcett said.

The PlayStation3 already features BD Live, thanks to an early-year firmware upgrade.

In related news, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment reiterated its plans that all future releases would feature BD Live, beginning with the June 17 release of “Men In Black.” By the end of the calendar year, about 40 to 50 Sony titles will be available with BD Live, said Rich Marty, VP of new business development for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Nine Sony titles are currently available with BD Live.

Sony Pictures will launch a BD Live marketing push in the summer, Marty added, yet without promotion by Sony, 20 percent of purchasers of BD Live titles have already used the feature. Future BD Live features could include the ability to chat live online with other people who are viewing the movie in synchronization, he added.

Sony is able to move quickly on BD Live, he continued, because it operates its own disc-authoring operation and is able to use Sony DADC’s servers to host BD Live features, Marty said. —Additional reporting by Joseph Palenchar