Over the last few months month, Panasonic has put itself in the lead of the technological race between standalone Blu-ray players. Back in October, it released the first Profile 1.1 player before the deadline for the specification even hit. Now Panasonic is leapfrogging its competitors again with the newly announced Panasonic DMP-BD50, the first Blu-ray player to be Profile 2.0 compatible--also known as BD-Live. This means the DMP-BD50 will be able to handle any special features on future Blu-ray discs that utilize an Internet connection, similar to what has already been done on HD DVD discs like Blood Diamond. That's not so much of a big deal right away--we're not aware of any discs that utilize BD-Live features yet--but it's nice to know that it's as future-proof as you can expect right now. The rest of the specs look pretty solid, too. High-resolution soundtrack support is excellent, with onboard decoding for DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. Panasonic also seems to hint at 7.1 analog outputs, mentioning that it can be matched with a 7.1 channel amplifier for full 7.1 sound. (We'll update this post when we get more information). Pricing and availability isn't released yet, but we hope to the see the DMP-BD50 earlier rather than later.