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Why the Blu-ray HD-DVD combo player is stuck in neutral

Consumers can buy a high definition disc player that plays everything, or they can save money and buy separates.

Late last year, South Korea's LG announced that it planned to come out with a movie player that could handle both Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs.

The world, or at least the microcosm where I spend my working hours, hailed the move like it was the second signing of the Treaty of Westphalia. Consumers would no longer have to worry about what discs, or computers, to buy. Their movie player would be compatible with whatever they bought.

A few other companies announced plans similar to LG.

LG's player, though, hasn't exactly become an international phenomenon. Granted, only 100,000 Blu-ray players got shipped in 2006. (Early estimates that 250,000 Blu-ray and HD-DVD players shipped last year were considered shocking low, but ended up being high.). Still, you're not seeing a big rush on combo players. Do you have one?

The reason, Randy Waynick, Sony Electronics' senior vice president of marketing told us last wee, was that they cost too much.

"It's just a short-term Band-Aid are choosing to apply," he said.

Sony, one of the primary proponents of a Blu-ray only world, would naturally say something like that. But guess what? He seems to be right.

LG's combo player from featured merchants on Amazon sells for $1,199. One company has it for $999 but they also charge $299 for shipping.

Featured merchants, meanwhile, are selling a Toshiba HD-DVD for $299 while Blu-ray players go for $500. Added together, the total there comes to $800. That's $400 less than the combo player and you get twice the amount of plastic, metal and LED lights.