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Mon, Mar 20, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Toshiba postpones launch of its new HD-DVD player

BLOOMBERG

Toshiba Corp delayed the release of its new high-definition (HD) home video player to April 18, after Warner Bros said it would postpone new videos in the format by three weeks because of technical issues.

The new date is a change from the company's previous plan to release its HD-DVD player this month and coincides with the debut schedule for high-definition films from Warner, a unit of New York-based Time Warner Inc.

Toshiba still has about a month lead on video players in the competing Blu-ray format backed by Sony Corp after previously putting off a holiday debut last year. Samsung Electronics Co says it will come out with the first Blu-ray player on May 23. Toshiba's planned release this month was timed to coincide with the availability of videos, the Tokyo-based company said in January.

"This is a new format, and there are technical issues that need to be resolved," Jodi Sally, a US vice president for Toshiba, said on Friday in an interview. "We feel it's important to synchronize the sale date."

Toshiba and Sony are vying for consumer support for their competing standards of high-definition DVDs, which promise better sound and picture quality than the current generation of home-video products.

Sally declined to say what the technical reasons are.

Sometimes it's "understandable with a new format" that delays occur, Sally said.

Warner will release three films on the HD-DVD format on April 18 and another 17 videos in the following weeks, the Burbank, California-based studio said in a statement on Friday.

Warner previously planned to release 50 films starting in the fourth quarter of last year and 24 films beginning March 28.

The studio plans to sell films in the two competing formats.

"It's about getting the right product," Stephen Nickerson, a vice president of market management at Warner Bros, said on Friday in an interview.

"We'd rather take a little more time. It's not any one film that is an issue or any one technology that is an issue," he said.

Warner's delay marks the second time the products have been postponed, with the most recent decision the result of technical issues including copy protection.

The first three Warner HD films are Million Dollar Baby, The Last Samurai and The Phantom of the Opera. Warner, Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures and General Electric Co's Universal Pictures had previously planned to release HD-DVD films last year in time for the holiday season in the US and to coincide with Toshiba's initial plan to sell HD-DVD players and computers.

The spokeswoman for Paramount home video, Brenda Ciccone, and Universal spokeswoman Lea Porteneuve didn't immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

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