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LG: No go on combo of Blu-ray, HD DVD

Will the competing next-generation optical disc standards ever meet in the same device? Not for now, it seems.

The dream of many gadget kooks these days--a box that can play both Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD movies--may come some day, but it doesn't appear likely in the near future.

Earlier in the year, Korean electronics giant LG indicated it was considering such a product, but now says it doesn't have such a device on its current road map. Other major electronics makers had already decided to pursue single-format players for now, so LG's indicated direction gave hope to some analysts that the format war might be bridged this year.

"We have had discussions about having such a device, but there are no official plans at the moment," said John Taylor, a spokesman for LG in the U.S. "The product in question was never really fleshed out in a lot of detail publicly."

LG already released Blu-ray products this year.

Technically, building a home player that could read discs from either high-definition format is feasible, according to many. The problem is cost, according to, among others, Sony Electronics COO Stan Glasgow. Both HD DVD and Blu-ray players are just going into mass production this year and thus remain expensive. Standalone HD players sell for around $500, while Blu-ray players sell for about $1,000. (The price of Blu-ray players, however, will drop to around $500 by next year, Glasgow said.)

Others have noted that the licensing agreements also make coming out with a combination device difficult. The companies that contributed intellectual property to the standard will also likely earn revenue from licensing royalties. Licensing royalties to CDs lead to millions in revenue for the companies behind the standard.

A ray of hope in the standards war, however, is a disc that could be played in either type of player.

Blu-ray and HD DVD are formats for storing high-definition video. The first films based around the formats came out this year. Consumers in surveys have said they may hold off buying Blu-ray or HD DVD systems until the format war is worked out. The fight over the format is similar to the old Betamax-VHS conflict but has greater consequences.

If consumers bought Betamax, they got stuck with a player and some movies on a dying standard. PC makers already include Blu-ray and HD DVD drives in PCs, so picking the wrong standard could also mean consumers would need to upgrade their computers.

Sony, Philips, LG, Samsung, Dell and a host of movie studios back Blu-ray. HD DVD is backed by Toshiba, Microsoft, Intel and a few studios, with some studios and PC makers supporting both standards. HD proponents claim the format has better backward-compatibility with existing DVD technology and that the players cost less.

Steve Baker, an analyst with the NPD Group, said the lack of a combo player this year won't be a big deal. "These are early-adopter products. It is fine if there is a fight right now," he said.

Baker further added that Pioneer has ditched the idea of coming out with a combo player.