LG calls DVD Truce with Dual-Format Player

LAS VEGAS ~ South Korea’s LG Electronics has given the world a peek at a dual-format DVD player it believes will quell the format war and win the hearts of consumers.

LG’s North America division president Michael Ahn, flanked by large flat-panel television screens, proudly described how the Super Blue Multi Player showed videos in competing Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD high-definition formats.

The players will go on sale in the United States the first week of February for a suggested retail price of US$1,199.

“It will be much more convenient to our consumers,” Ahn told a ballroom packed with media on Sunday in what was the first news conference of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that formally opened in Las Vegas on Monday.

“They were confused with two formats and hesitated to buy a single player, but we gave them the solution.”

LG executives proclaimed the player an “historic flagship device.”

“We have been a member of the Blu-ray camp, but we recognized that the consumer needs something more,” said LG chief technology officer HG Lee.

The player was as easy to use as current DVDs, Lee said, while pressing simple controls and saying “your grandmother could take care of that.”

LG’s player could handle all the interactive features for Blu-ray, but fell short on some HD DVD interactive features, Lee said.

Since the Japanese companies Sony and Toshiba launched competing technologies, Blu-ray and HD DVD, respectively, companies have been battling to persuade consumers that their product should become the dominant format.

In a replay of the VHS-Betamax battle between two types of videocassette tape in the late 1970s, the two different DVD formats offer cinematic-quality images and interactive entertainment, but they are incompatible, forcing most consumers to choose one.

“We will continue at this stage to concentrate on the second generation of the HD DVD market,” Akio Ozaka, head of Toshiba’s US consumer products division, said after unveiling the Japanese company’s newest offering in Las Vegas.

“We will stick with the HD DVD.”

Ozaka expected the LG offering to intensify competition in the DVD marketplace.

Analysts attending CES cautioned that LG might be overly optimistic regarding the potential of its new player since its suggested price was higher than many slick new televisions.

A new model Toshiba HD DVD player introduced by Ozaka on Sunday was priced at $599, a cost the company said it believed would shift the appeal from “early adopters” of technology to the “early majority” of gadget buyers.

Toshiba executives welcomed the notion of Warner Bros. selling films on dual-format DVDs, saying it was a “great idea” bound to get more people buying high-density players.

They declined to comment on the Warner disks, saying they had yet to check out their performance or specifications.

Movie studios, which are releasing high-definition DVD films, have feared the player battle may delay adoption of the format, which they hope will recharge the sluggish DVD market.

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