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Samsung says 'yes' to dual HD DVD, Blu-ray player

Didn't appear in 2005, 2006; will ship in 2007

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Samsung's on again, off again plan to produce a player that can handle both next-gen optical disc formats - HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc - is going to happen after all. The Korean giant today said it will ship such a machine in the US in time for Christmas.

Dubbed the Duo HD player - the more prosaic model number is BD-UP5000 - will play both media, crucially with full support for the two formats' interactivity technologies, HDi and BD Java. That lifts the Duo HD above the dual-format player announced by LG in January: it will only handle Blu-ray interactivity - HD DVD playback is limited to the movies themselves.

Samsung executives first hinted they were pondering a dual-format player back in the Autumn of 2005, but the company quickly acted to stress its total support for Blu-ray Disc. The rumour was revived last year after the first signs LG might be planning to produce such a machine surfaced in March 2006. The following June, Samsung staff were once again being quoted as claiming the company was considering a dual-format player.

Samsung has become increasingly willing to throw its weight behind HD DVD as well as Blu-ray of late, most notably by announcing last month a latptop with an integrated HD DVD drive.

Market monitor Nielsen VideoScan's numbers for the week ending 18 March - the most recent stats made public - put BD ahead in sales of pre-recorded content in the US, with year-to-date sales of 549,730 units to HD DVD's 249,451 discs. Since sales of each format started, some 708,600 HD DVDs and 844,000 BDs have been sold.

That's content - BD clearly has the lead in hardware sales, thanks entirely to the PlayStation 3.

The question is, how quickly can the BD camp turn the lead into market dominance? Samsung's announcement suggests it doesn't believe that's not going to happen by the 2007 Holiday Season - or that it expects HD DVD-backing consumers to make the switch to new hardware now they can bring their disc collections with them.

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