With dominance of the market for high-definition movie discs still up in the air, Sony Corp. (SNE) said Monday it is including a small surprise with the new Blu-ray Disc player it is shipping this week: a price tag $100 lower than previously announced.

When Sony announced the BDP-S300 player in February, it put the price at $599, but it has now set a list price at $499.

That means the new player costs half of what the company's first Blu-ray player cost when it launched just six months ago — probably one of the fastest price declines in the consumer electronics industry.

The new player has essentially the same capabilities as the older BDP-S1 but is smaller.

The price cut is due to falling production costs and the growing demand for Blu-ray products, according to Chris Fawcett, vice president of Sony Electronics' home products division.

Sony has been undersold in the market for high-definition disc players by Toshiba, which created the rival HD DVD format. Its players are now selling for less than $300, 14 months after Toshiba's first player appeared in U.S. stores.

Neither Blu-ray nor HD DVD players have caught on strongly with consumers, who have been waiting for the market to settle on one of the formats. But dropping prices for players and HDTV sets in more homes mean a big showdown between the discs may be looming this holiday season.

Hollywood studios are split on the issue, but Blu-ray has the strongest support.

Most people buying Blu-ray discs are apparently buying them for their Sony PlayStation 3 game consoles. The cheapest version of the console costs $499, but its game-oriented wireless controller and relatively loud fan makes it a less than ideal movie player.