LOS ANGELES – Korea's LG Electronics Inc. said on Tuesday it planned to launch a next-generation DVD player that will bridge the yawning gap between two competing formats by playing both HD DVD and Blu-ray.
"LG is a supporter of Blu-ray and is now considering a dual format player for later this year," said John Taylor, a U.S. spokesman for the Korean company.
Both Blu-ray, developed by a Sony Corp. (SNE)-led consortium, and HD DVD, championed by Toshiba Corp,, offer more capacity than current DVDs, but the groups' failure to reach a unified front has paved the way for a costly battle in the $24 billion home video market, like the VHS/Betamax war of 25 years ago that caused widespread customer confusion.
Korean LG Electronics last week became the second high-profile Blu-ray supporter after Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) to announce it would also support HD DVD.
In addition to throwing its support behind HD DVD, the Korean-based electronics maker also notified dealers in a memo that it was developing a dual-format HD DVD/Blu-ray Disc player, Taylor said.
Richard Doherty, an analyst with Envisioneering, said LG planned the launch for fall. A dual player would be a win for both retailers and consumers who will likely face months or years of frustration and confusion in a standards war, he added.
"While LG is the first to announce a dual player, we're sure it will not be the last system that gives consumers what they expect — high-definition discs that play with no questions asked," he said.
HD DVD players are expected to be out of the gate first, hitting stores later this month, while Blu-ray has said it expects its first players and titles to hit the market in May.
Sony announced on Wednesday that it will push back the release of its much anticipated PlayStation 3 video game console, which will include a Blu-ray drive, to November.
A Blu-ray spokesman said the spring launch of the format and players remained on track.
The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday said HD DVD films from Time Warner Inc.'s (TWX) Warner Bros. may not be ready in time for the launch of Toshiba's player on March 28, contrary to expectations.
Retailers are already frustrated by the format battle.
"A lot of people are asking if this is Betamax revisited. I think it's frustrating to a lot of people in the market," said Tom Drake, president and chief executive officer of the North American Retail Dealers Association.