LG Electronics plans next week to launch the first DVD player that can play both Blu-ray and HD DVD discs, making it possible for consumers to buy high-definition movies without worrying about the recording format.
The South Korean company said Thursday that the device will be unveiled at CES in Las Vegas but declined to give further details until then. The player will be available in the United States early this year.
The market has been gearing up for a DVD war reminiscent of the VHS-Betamax battle that ushered in the VCR era. Sony lost with Betamax.
Movie studios and consumer electronics leaders have taken sides in the current battle. Sony, Hitachi and Philips favor Blu-ray, while Toshiba and NEC support HD DVD. On the studio side, Sony, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 20th Century Fox, and Walt Disney Pictures are exclusively releasing DVDs in Blu-ray. Universal Studios is distributing high-definition content only in HD DVD, and Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures are releasing DVDs in both formats.
For now, consumers have yet to feel the impact of the Blu-ray/HD DVD battle because high-definition technology and content remains an emerging market of early adopters. With the exception of flat-panel TVs, the prices for many players remain too high for the mass market. However, most analysts agree that the market for HD movies sold in stores or over the Internet is unlikely to take off, if consumers are forced to choose between competing formats.