Electronic Design

Samsung Delay Bad News For Blu-ray

April 6, 2006

Samsung Electronics announced Monday that it is rescheduling the U.S. launch of its Blu-ray player from May 23 to June 25 to complete compatibility testing.

Hardware for Samsung’s BD-P1000 has been finalized and is ready for mass production in Suwon, South Korea (Fig. 1). But the company said that it had yet to finish compatibility testing with Blu-ray test discs that will be made available by product manufacturers and content providers in late April.

The statement was issued just days after Toshiba released the world’s first HD DVD player, the HD-XA1, in Japan on March 31 (Fig. 2). Samsung’s BD-P1000 was expected to be the first Blu-ray player to hit the market, but the company said it does not believe the delay will stop that from happening.

"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," Samsung said in a statement. "Samsung stands behind the quality of our products, and, building on our successful history, will continue to introduce products only when a high quality level has been assured."

Samsung utilized the extra time to add some additional features to its initial Blu-ray offering. It upgraded the player’s 9-in-2 multi memory-card interface to 11-in-2 by adding support for Mini-SD and Memory Stick Pro Duo formats.

The BD-P1000 will have a native 1080p output via HDMI for Blu-ray software titles that are digitally mastered in 1920-by-1080 resolution, and up to a 1080p upconversion of conventional DVDs through the HDMI digital interface. Toshiba’s HD-XA1 also supports upconversion of standard DVDs to a resolution of 1080i or 720p through an HDCP-capable HDMI output.

Blu-ray and HD DVD are jockeying to take the place of the DVD as the next optical storage format. HD DVD has a structure similar to that of standard DVDs, with storage capacities of 15 Gbytes for a single-layer disc and 30 Gbytes for a dual-layer disc. Blu-ray discs are written to and read using a finer blue laser, which enable storage capacities starting at 25 Gbytes for a single-layer disc.

Samsung’s BD-P1000 will have a retail price of about $1,000. Toshiba’s HD-XA1 will retail for $799.

Electronic Design Analysis By Paul Whytock Electronic Design Europe Editor

Back in the May 2005 edition of Electronic Design Europe, I commented on the format battle between Blu-ray and HD DVD disc technology, comparing it to the great technology conflict between Betamax and VHS. I pointed out that despite all of the technical differences and advantages trumpeted by both systems, ultimately consumers would decide which system would reign supreme. Sure enough they did, and VHS took the crown. Customers liked the price-performance positioning of VHS, even if arguments at the time pointed to Betamax as a superior technology.

So why, given that well-documented item of technological history to guide them, is Sony currently jeopardizing its market position in the Blu-ray versus HD DVD format battle by delaying the launch of Blu-ray’s platform—the PlayStation 3 game console? The answer: unresolved technical issues with Blu-ray.

An unhappy Sony feels these problems are a result of the failure of the Blu-ray Disc Association to come up with final technical specs. Sony’s difficulties are further compounded by the fact that Toshiba is ready to grab the market now with its HD DVD format.

However, many think Blu-ray may be technically better in the long run. It uses a coating only one-sixth the thickness of the outside layer of a DVD or a HD DVD. Blu-ray's data layers are closer to the surface, which allows a Blu-ray player to read data that's encoded with smaller markings. Smaller markings mean a higher density of data can be packed onto a single layer.

So, simply put, Blu-ray can store more data on each layer, and it will have more layers of data than HD DVDs. On top of that, Sony plans to create future versions with increased numbers of data layers.

But—and it is a big but—Toshiba and HD DVD supporters (including Microsoft and its Xbox 360) have a timing advantage that consumers may find irresistible. And don’t forget about the difference in price. Furthermore, because HD DVD technology has the same layer dimensions as today's disks; existing DVD factories can start producing HD DVD quickly and cheaply. So it will be interesting to see which technology feels the force of consumer purchasing power—the here-and-now or the jam tomorrow?

TAGS: Toshiba
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