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No cheap Blu-ray players for Blighty this Xmas

They've all gone to the US and Japan

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Don't expect to pick up a cheap Blu-ray Disc player this Christmas - unless you live in the US or Japan.

So claimed market watcher Screen Digest this week, which stressed that the dip in sales of Blu-ray players it expects to see this quarter isn't a result of a lack of demand but tight supply.

The recession is having an impact, but it's only holding back mainstream buyers. Early adopters are up for the technology and willing to buy - if only they can get their hands on the kit.

Why can't they? Because Toshiba's decision, announced last February, to can the HD DVD format caught BD component manufacturers unawares. Toshiba's announcement led to strong retail demand for players that neither format had thus far experienced and this, in turn, led to what SD calls "a severe shortage of an essential component" - blue-laser diodes, presumably.

Sony's inclusion of a BD drive in the PlayStation 3 wouldn't have helped the supply situation, either.

Last week, Stan Glasgow, head of Sony's electronics business in the US, said that the company's world sales target of 5m BD players will not now be reached, though he reckons equipment suppliers won't fall far short of it: they'll set 4.5m units - 90 per cent of the previous forecast - instead.

SD claimed that while component supply is now sorted, the effect isn't going to be felt until early 2009 - a timescale interestingly associated with a PS3 price cut. For now, supply remains tight because what machines manufacturers have been able to produce have largely gone to markets where demand is highest - the US and Japan, basically.

In the US, sales are coming on the back of cheaper, sub-$300 (£195/€232) players - expected to get even cheaper this coming Friday, aka 'Black Friday', the day after the States' Thanksgiving holiday and a time of traditional mass discounting.

Screen Digest did offer a glimmer of hope for consumers looking for cut-price BD kit: "BD hardware prices will start to fall in 2009," forecast SD analyst Richard Cooper, "and in due course even price-conscious consumers will start upgrading, not least because the format's backwards compatibility means they can continue to make the most their existing library of DVDs."

Group Test: Blu-ray Disc players round-up

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