TOKYO Toshiba Corp. unveiled its first HD DVD player in Japan on Friday (March 31) as the next-generation video format battle moves to the marketplace.
An impassioned Yoshihide Fujii, president and CEO of Toshiba's Digital Media Network Co., said introduction of Toshiba's first player took more effort than that expended trying to unify the HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc (BD) formats.
Fujii dismissed claims of BD superiority in areas like capacity and hard coating technology. "In all aspects, the HD DVD format is not second to the BD format."
Shipments to Toshiba's U.S. dealers has also started. Two player models will hit the U.S. market around April 18, when Warner releases new movie titles.
Dubbed HD-XA1, Toshiba's player for the Japanese market is basically the same as the high-end U.S. model but customized for the Japanese market. Extra features will increase the retail price here by about $100.
The first Japanese movie title is scheduled to be released on April 7. Toshiba is offering the first shipments of the player until April 27 with two complimentary HD DVD movies.
Software titles will be limited in Japan. Toshiba said about 20 movie titles will be released by the end of April.
Release of software titles has been slowed by work on a copy management standard, which has taken longer than expected. "We were really anxious about whether the verification of disks and players compliant with [the Advanced Access Content System] would be completed in time."
Fujii said between 150 to 200 titles will be available by the end of the year.
Toshiba initially plans to ship 2,000 units a month and will ramp up monthly production to the tens of thousands by the end of the year. By March 2007, Toshiba plans to sell as many as 700,000 units.
"The picture quality is really good, far better than that of present DVD," Renji Asakura, an audio and video critic. "To be fair, however, the high quality is the result of MPEG 4 AVC/H.264 high-profile video compression, which will be used for both HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats."
Toshiba is currently the sole supplier of HD DVD players. Three BD backers have announced marketing plans. Following Samsung and Sony, which plan to introduce BD players in May and in July, respectively, Matsushita said Tuesday (March 28) it will introduce its DMP-BD10 player in September in the U.S.. The price tag will be under $1,500. Matsushita's roll-out plan for Japan has not yet been determined, a company spokesman said.