Hybrid HD DVD / Blu-ray players appear unlikely after LG backs off

Posted by Scott M. Fulton, III

New York (NY) - Last week, a spokesperson for LG Electronics told This Week in Consumer Electronics magazine that the combination Blu-ray / HD DVD player it had announced in March, was not in the cards for the company's slate of fall releases. TWICE and others took this news as a clear signal that the hybrid player would not be produced at all.

On the surface, it might appear that the company left the door open a crack when it told TWICE it had not yet finalized its product plans for the second half of 2007 - a time period which, many believe, began on 1 July. But in a gala press event in New York last Saturday at perhaps the strangest possible venue - literally Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum - LG was quick to show off its latest round of Blu-ray disc burner drives, one of which will also burn all standard writable DVD formats and sell for an MSRP of $899.

But the main focus of the event was supposedly to show off home electronics equipment, most notably including its 71" HDTV display. So the fact that LG showed PC-based drives as indicative of its high-definition video disc offerings is leaving many confused, probably including dealers as well. Both the HD-199 stand-alone HD DVD player, and the BD-199 stand-alone Blu-ray disc player - prototypes of which were both unveiled at CES last January - were conspicuously missing.

Their absence, however, is in line with the spokesperson's comment that it hadn't finalized its product plans for this year.

If none of the three components, including the yet-to-be-seen LG hybrid, ever make it out the gate, some video enthusiasts are wondering whether it would be that great a loss. Samsung has considered the possibility of producing its own hybrid player, as TG Daily reported on last June. But in response to that news, Samsung has issued statements elsewhere in the press saying, "Samsung Electronics is fully committed to the Blu-ray format and currently only has plans to introduce a Blu-ray player to the market."

Samsung's statement is interesting, first of all, for acknowledging that the company has plans. But the rumor that got the hybrid player buzz to start with came from a Samsung assistant manager, in an interview with IDG News Service. If the company as a whole ever was considering a "universal player," the fact that it apparently is not doing so now may be an indication of the combined weakness in sales for the first high-def players for both formats in North America, which could bode for a very weak niche market, potentially, in hybrids.