Sony’s $1,000 Blu-ray player takes on HD DVD with two strikes against it

December 2, 2006, 8:19 AM UTC
Fortune

Sonybdps1Sony announced Nov. 30 that it is shipping the BDP-S1, its first standalone Blu-ray Disc player.

Sony said it will release downloadable software updates in 2007 for the $1,000 player that will allow it to play BD-R/RE recorded media. The firmware updates will also enable BD-Java (BD-J) functions, for viewing special interactive content. In other words, Sony is charging $1,000 for a Blu-ray hobbyist kit.

I’m sorry, but for $1,000 I expect a product that’s reasonably complete. What Sony is releasing here is the equivalent of a DVD player that doesn’t read DVD-R or DVD-RW discs and doesn’t show some special features.

That might be fine if there were no competition; but Sony and Blu-ray are in a pitched battle with HD DVD for next-generation format supremacy. Meanwhile the Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD player costs $438.88 at Amazon.com, and the Xbox 360 HD DVD player is #69 on the Toys & Video Games top seller list. (Behind the wireless controller and the Quick Charge Kit, the HD DVD player is the most popular Xbox 360 add-on.)

This holiday season clearly won’t be the one where the masses take notice of Blu-ray and HD DVD – most people I talk with are annoyed about the format war. So what Sony mainly stands to create here is bad buzz for releasing pricey products that don’t feel finished. That’s something that, considering the Playstation 3 launch, doesn’t help things one bit.