Blu-ray Disc players delayed again, perhaps until August

Posted by Scott M. Fulton, III

Tokyo (Japan) - Reuters is reporting this morning that a spokesperson for Pioneer Electronics confirmed the company is delaying the release of its BDP-HD1 Blu-ray Disc player. The report did not state the duration of the delay, though the spokesperson cited lack of progress in Blu-ray Disc technology development as a cause.

News of the delay came by way of a corporate denial of a report that appeared over the weekend in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper, stating that Pioneer had plans to pull out of the DVD recorder market. The report was not explicit with regards to whether this market included recordable BD-R discs, or simply current-generation technology; but Pioneer's denial made it clear that such a pullout seems not only unwarranted, but ludicrous.

Pioneer's official month of release for BDP-HD1 had been May, though anxious customers had apparently noticed the fruitless passage of that month. Meanwhile, customers awaiting the release of Samsung's BD-P1000 Blu-ray Disc player report to the AV Science Forum that retailers, including Amazon.com, are telling them it won't be available until at least 25 July, perhaps later. Samsung's model had previously been anticipated for 23 June. No reasons have been given for the delay.

What's even more confusing is that the BD-P1000 is apparently available in Poland, with reviewers from Polish Web sites already featuring photographs and full reviews.

The specific causes for the problems to which Pioneer alluded this morning, aren't exactly clear. What little news has emerged from the effort to finalize the HDMI 1.3 specifications has been generally upbeat, with Sony still expected to lead the announcement of support for new higher-definition audio formats for the digital cable spec sometime this month. But the new Pioneer system is only expected to feature outputs for Dolby 5.1 analog audio, unless the purpose for the delay is to give time for it to support digital audio. Any roadblocks in the HDMI negotiations presumably wouldn't impact Pioneer at this stage.

Negotiations surrounding the mandatory managed copy (MMC) feature of AACS copy protection may still be proceeding slowly, but even the lack of progress there has failed to impede the first wave of HD DVD players from making their way to retail inventory. The first wave of Blu-ray players, including Samsung's and Pioneer's models, will probably omit the Ethernet cable necessary to implement MMC anyway; HD DVD player manufacturers, including Toshiba, have already made that design choice.

What's more, producers of Blu-ray-based movies have apparently been prepared for some time to release their titles, awaiting the starting gun from the player manufacturers. Sony Pictures' date for its initial Blu-ray movie releases continues to be 20 June, with Warner expected to follow suit on 23 June. A Warner Home Video spokesperson has stated previously that Warner isn't willing to sell movies without players available to run them on. Sony's own first-generation BD player, the BDP-S1, doesn't have to be delayed; its current premiere date is 15 August.

Meanwhile, sales of the first wave of HD DVD players continue, though early reports are that their initial sellout sales levels have noticeably leveled off. Perhaps a reassessment of strategy is as good a candidate as any for the potential cause of this morning's BD player delays.