Blu-ray in every home? Backers aim for $99 players

Blu-ray logoThe Blu-ray Disc Association is trying to boost manufacturing of Blu-ray players in China with an eye towards getting the price of entry-level players down to $99. But cheap hardware isn't likely to do for Blu-ray what it did for DVD.

DVD players didn't overtake VCRs and spread throughout US living rooms until they hit the magic $99 price point. It has been argued that Blu-ray doesn't have a chance of going mainstream until they, too, drop below $100. Indications are that this may happen at some point this year—maybe in time for the annual holiday shopping frenzy.

A story on Blu-ray.com indicates that Chinese manufacturers may be preparing to enter the market en masse. Faced with a desire to make inroads in the world's largest consumer market and to face down any possible threat from the local competitor, CBHD, the Blu-ray Disc Association is trying to ramp up production in that country.

Aside from the presence of CBHD, which Warner Bros. has pledged to support, Blu-ray is hindered in China by relatively high licensing costs. The BDA plans to drop costs by making changes to the Blu-ray license and opening up the technology to Chinese manufacturers. The desired result: a flood of Blu-ray players sufficient to drive the price down to $99. Even if they break the $100 barrier only temporarily around the holidays, it's hoped that the price for entry-level players will stabilize there in early 2010.

Some analysts are skeptical that the players will drop in cost that quickly. "Black Friday, maybe. It's entirely possible you could see a few players down at that price level," NPD Group analyst Stephen Baker told PC World.

The bigger question is whether hitting a $99 price tag will do for Blu-ray what it did for DVD. Our Magic 8-Ball says "outlook not so good," and here's why. First and foremost, we're in a recession. While we may begin to pull out of it later this year, consumers are loath to spend money on luxury items, which leads us to the second reason. Even though Blu-ray's picture quality is stunning (watch Wall•E on a large 1080p HDTV and you'll agree), upscaled DVDs also look good on HDTVs—good enough for a lot of people, anyway. Lastly, Blu-ray is being challenged by HD downloads—if you want HD goodness, you've got plenty of alternatives to buying a Blu-ray player: your Xbox 360, Amazon, Apple TV, and cable/satellite TV provider, to name a few.

Getting the price of Blu-ray players down to $99—even if they're not Blu-ray 2.0 compliant—will definitely give sales a boost. But it's not going to set sales on fire as it did for DVD players back in the day.

Source: ars technica

Tags: Blu-ray, DVD

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