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LG to sell first Blu-ray/HD DVD combo player

Electronics maker unveils the Super Multi Blue, the first player that can play discs from the competing Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD formats.

LAS VEGAS--The details surrounding LG Electronics' promised combination high-definition DVD player came into focus Sunday.

The Korean electronics maker unveiled the Super Multi Blue, the first player that can play discs from the competing Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD formats, at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show here.

"Customers are not really sure which format player they want to buy and naturally seem reluctant to buy the player or DVD contents," said LG North America President and CEO Michael Ahn. He also cited the lagging sales of both disc formats and the respective players as motivation to engineer a dual-format player, saying the next-generation video disc industry growth "is slower than it could be."

Indeed, a mere 250,000 discs sold in both formats this year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, significantly lower than the 750,000 the organization had predicted.

This combo player, and others that may be revealed at CES this week, could put to rest talk of a format war between the two camps. Both Blu-ray and HD DVD have lined up movie studios and consumer electronics and IT companies on their respective sides, but LG is the first to make a device that unites the two.

LG will continue to maintain its membership in the Blu-ray Disc Association, Ahn said. The Super Multi Blue player has a single tray that can play Blu-ray, HD DVD and standard DVDs.

The player will be available through national retailers, including Best Buy and Circuit City beginning the first week of February for $1,199. That's more than double the priciest HD DVD player, which retails for $200 to $500, but only slightly more than the average Blu-ray player, which sells for between $500 and $1,500.

The player includes both red and blue laser diodes, which enables it to read all three disc formats. However, while users can take advantage of all the interactive features included on Blu-ray discs, it is currently limited to simply playing HD DVDs without their interactive functions, Ahn said. The player will play 1080p content, currently the highest possible video resolution available, and has an HDMI 1.2 output.

Many expected the format war to be decided by which format could offer the most compelling content, and in another sign that the two camps could be forced to call a truce, Warner Bros. is also expected to announce it will sell movies and TV shows as a hybrid disc called Total HD that will play in the Blu-ray and HD DVD formats.