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To boost Blu-ray DVD format, Sony to sell a cheaper player

NEW YORK -- Sony Corp. said yesterday it is bringing out a cheaper player for Blu-ray discs early this summer, a crucial step in its battle to make the high-definition format the replacement for DVDs.

The BDP-S300 will cost $599, yet will have the same capabilities as the $999 BDP-S1 Sony is currently selling, said Randy Waynick, senior vice president of the home products division of Sony Electronics.

Sony and Samsung Corp., which also makes a Blu-ray player, have been undersold by Toshiba Corp.'s players for the rival HD DVD format.

Toshiba has a model on the market for $499.

However, sales of players for either format have been tepid, as consumers have stood back, waiting for the market to settle on one of the discs.

Most people buying high-definition discs are apparently doing so to play them on PlayStation 3 game consoles.

There are two versions of the console, for $499 and $599, and Sony sold 1.8 million units last year.

"Eighty percent of people who buy a PS3 also buy Blu-ray movies to go with it," Waynick told reporters.

"The consumers have determined that that's the format they're choosing to go with," he said, citing retail data from Nielsen VideoScan that showed Blu-ray discs outselling HD DVDs by three to one this year.

The BDP-S300 is a smaller unit than the BDP-S1, and is about the same size as a DVD player. Like the current model, it will be able to output a signal in the highest high-definition format, known as 1080p. It will also be able to play CDs, which the BDP-S1 does not.

Stan Glasgow, president of Sony Electronics, told reporters that by Christmas, prices for Blu-ray players should be below $500.

Sony has previously complained that DVD players became a commodity product too soon, and that it was hard to make a profit in a market dominated by $50 units.

Glasgow predicted that Blu-ray players would take the same route.

"Over time, I think it will be just like DVD," he said.

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