Sony Offers Lower-Priced Blu-ray Disc Player

The BDP-S300 is similar to the older BDP-S1, but the price difference takes the former model closer to the mainstream market. The newer player sells for $599 and the older model $999.

Sony introduced the less-expensive model to "broaden the market," a spokesman said. "It's to make these types of products available to a wider market, versus just those looking at the higher-end pieces."

Sony, however, acknowledges that the differences between the two machines is likely to be noticed only by electronic enthusiasts, not the average consumer -- similar to how a symphony conductor might hear more at a Beethoven concert than the average listener. Sony plans to continue selling the BDP-S1.

Despite the lower price, the latest Blu-ray disc player still sells at a premium over Toshiba's $499 HD DVD disc player. HD DVD is the competing high-definition movie format that's also supported by player manufacturer NEC. Besides creator Sony, Blu-ray supporters include Hitachi and Philips. Among movie studios, Goldwyn-Mayer, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Pictures, and Sony are exclusively releasing DVDs in Blu-ray, while Universal Studios is distributing only in HD DVD. Warner and Paramount Pictures are the only two major studios that are releasing movies in both formats.

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This market fragmentation has contributed to the lukewarm reception high-definition players have received in the consumer market, analysts say. In addition, even the lowest prices for the players are still much higher than regular DVD players, which are available at less than $100. Makers of high-definition players have yet to convince consumers of the value of the higher-priced machines, experts say.

Most Blu-ray discs bought today are for the Sony PlayStation 3 video game console, which includes a player. Blu-ray discs have outsold HD DVD discs primarily because Sony last year sold 1.8 million PlayStation 3s. "PS3 is out in abundance," a Sony spokesman said, "and is the predominant Blu-ray device in the market."