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Toshiba tight-lipped on Blu-ray player plan

Keener on kiosk-sold downloads instead?

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Toshiba has poured cold water on claims that it's preparing to produce a Blu-ray Disc player this year. Well, sort of.

The one-time HD DVD cheerleader this week formally said that it was not able to comment on stories that it plans to release the BD player by the end of the year.

No great surprise, that - no one expected it would. Having had to gracefully accept the failure of its favoured format - Toshiba announced its withdrawal from HD DVD production in February 2008 - it's hardly going to admit to joining the rival team until it's ready to launch.

It's still open to question whether it will. Downloads may be its preferred option, which the statement-reading spokesman acknowledged: "We believe that [downloads are] a good alternative to packed media in the future.

"We cannot say when the time will be right in order to have the mass market ready for download but we have started investigating our options."

Indeed, Toshiba, you've been doing so for almost a year now, at least. In September 2008, Toshiba invested $20m in US digital content deliver specialist MOD Systems - it had already given MOD $4m at that point.

MOD focuses on providing retailers with kit to sell songs, videos, TV shows and movies through kiosks fed from its servers. Punters buy the shows they want in store, and the kiosks issue an SD card containing the downloads they've purchased.

Talk about movie downloads inevitably assumes streams are sent to the home. But while domestic broadband links in many countries - our own included - isn't up to 1080p HD downloads yet, sending the files to commercial download points is. Download kiosks could be the way forward in the short term, especially for punters who just want to watch the film and don't give two hoots for all the extras and interactive features the Blu-ray crowd like to laud.

MOD's system uses SD cards as the target for downloads. Interestingly, it was recently suggested that Apple might be bypassing Blu-ray Disc - Steve Jobs, for one, is not a fan - to offer HD on SD. To be fair, the evidence is flimsy: the rumour is predicated solely on the addition of SD card slots to Apple's MacBook Pro laptops. But it's a curious coincidence, no? ®

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