LG Plans Blu-ray/HD DVD Hybrid Player

After a few months of mixed messages, LG Electronics has announced it plans to offer a hybrid next-generation DVD player which supports both the competing Blu-ray and HD DVD formats. The unit will make its debut at next weeks’ CES show in Las Vegas, where LG also plans to announce pricing information, technical specs, and availability. The player is expected to hit consumer markets in early 2007.

Blu-ray and HD DVD have been half-heartedly battling for dominance of the nascent high-definition video disc marketplace. HD DVD getting off to a decent start in terms of availability, pricing, and support from computing heavyweights like Microsoft and Intel, but Blu-ray holds strong cards with Sony’s PlayStation 3 built around a Blu-ray drive, and movie studio Sony Pictures staunchly staying clear of the rival HD DVD format. However, supplies of both technologies have been limited by constraints on the availability of blue laser diodes used in both products, and consumers have, for the most part, seemed willing to sit tight until one standard—or one solution—is a clear winner.

LG plainly thinks it can bridge the cap with a hybrid player, enabling consumers to play either HD DVD or Blu-ray content without having to wonder if their player and movie are mutually compatible. And, indeed, hybrid players might make the whole high-def DVD format war moot…assuming their price tags don’t make consumers blanche.

In the meantime, Warner Brother plans to announce a new disc format called Total HD, which combines HD DVD and Blu-ray formats on a single disc. Warner Brothers applied for a patent on a triple-format DVD disc last September which combined Blu-ray, HD DVD, and standard DVD content. We won’t know until the formal announcement, but Total HD would seem to focus solely on the two high-definition formats, enabling studios—maybe even blu-ray, blue-blooded Sony Pictures—to release a single disc which would work on both types of high-definition DVD players. Of course, if the format does launch, that means retailers would have to stalk movies in four formats—standard DVD, HD DVD, Blu-ray, and Total HD—to keep everyone happy, at least in the short term. Four formats is less confusing than three, right?

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