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Competitors unimpressed with Super Multi Blue

Posted: 10 Jan 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Super Multi Blue? Blu-ray? DVD? HD? DVD?

South Korea's LG Electronics unveiled a dual-format HD DVD player supporting both HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats on Jan. 7 at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Competitors criticized the dual-format player, saying it would add to consumer confusion and carries too high a price tag.

The so called "Super Multi Blue" player, which is set to hit the U.S. market early next month, will apparently be the first player on the market offering support for the rival formats. LG also disclosed plans to offer a dual-format drive for PCs. Both products carry a suggested retail price of $1,199, according to company executives.

LG, a member of the, Blu-ray Disc Association, decided to create a dual-format player because the company recognized that the format war was creating customer confusion and creating the market for next-generation DVD players, according to H.G. Lee, LG president and chief technology officer.

"Some time last year we recognized that the two formats are here to stay," Lee said, adding that LG sees "no unification [of the formats] anytime soon."

According to Lee, the Super Multi Blue player, LG model BH100, supports all interactive capabilities of Blu-ray, but does not support all the interactive capabilities of HD DVD. Because LG has been a member of the Blu-Ray Disc Association, the company developed the hardware to support the BD-Java capabilities of Blu-ray, but did not have the technology available to support HD DVD's interactive features. Instead, the company has created a simple navigation menu for HD DVD mode, Lee said.

The Super Multi Blue 50Gbyte drive is capable of read/write function support of Blu-ray Disc (BD), DVD, CD, but supports HD DVD read only, LG said.

Lee said the dual-format player utilizes chips from Broadcom Corp., presumably including the BCM7440, the universal next-generation DVD chip that the company introduced last November. The player also includes two sets of laser diodes, one for reading both HD DVD and Blu-ray and another for reading conventional DVD. A third laser diode is used in the computer drive for reading and writing CDs, Lee said.

Both devices support various A/V formats, including MPEG-2, VC-1, H.264 video, MPEG1/2 audio, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+, DTS and DTS-HD audio, and includes multiple inputs/outputs such as HDMI out, component/composite video outputs, and optical/coaxial/discrete 5.1 channel audio outputs, LG said.

The dual-format player was not universally applauded on the eve of CES Sunday. LG competitors suggested that the player will not alleviate the format war and actually does consumers a disservice. Some also commented on the price, which they suggested was excessive for the average consumer.

Consumers who buy Super Multi Blue may be lulled into a "false sense of safety," believing that both formats will survive and buying DVDs that support either format, according to Andy Parsons, senior vice president of product development and customers support for Pioneer Electronics Inc.'s industrial solutions business group. As a result, he said, consumers will end up investing money in media that will ultimately be useless.

Pioneer, a member of the Blu-ray Association, is committed to Blu-ray and has no plans to follow in LG's footsteps by releasing a dual-format player, Parsons said. "We believe [Blu-ray is] the format that has what it takes to be the next-generation DVD technology."

"We don't believe this [dual-format player] will unify the industry," said Lucas Covers, chief marketing officer of Philips Electronics, which is also a member of the Blu-ray Association. The dual-format player, he said, will only add complexity for consumers and content providers.

"It's no great benefit to the consumer, either," said Stewart Muller, president of Philips Consumer Electronics, North America, "when you consider the price point of the dual deck."

- Dylan McGrath
EE Times

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