3 The final Blu-ray Profile is here (really!) Blu-ray is now on its third version of player "profiles." The first-gen Profile 1.0 models, which shipped until October 2007, play the movies on Blu-ray Discs (plus DVDs and, generally, CDs), and that's about it. Second-gen Profile 1.1 BonusView models (also called, ironically, Final Profile players) have the secondary audio and video decoders needed for the more interactive features, a little bit of local storage, and the ability to read extra BD-Java content that's required for BonusView (picture-in-picture) capability. These players let you call up additional disc-based content, such as a commentary or a videogame, in a small window on the screen while you're watching a movie. The latest - and last - profile, 2.0, requires the secondary decoders and an Ethernet port plus at least 1 GB of local storage. These "BD-Live" players let you access a variety of interactive content from the Web. But except for PlayStation 3, most earlier players can't be upgraded to Profile 2.0. The first wave of 2.0 players (and several upgradable 1.1 players) is now arriving. One of the first BD-Live models, Panasonic's DMP-BD50 ($700), launched in June. Both Sony and Samsung are introducing $400 Profile 1.1 models (the BDP-S350 and BD-P1500, respectively) that have Ethernet jacks so they can be upgraded to 2.0 when firmware updates are released in the fall.
4 Blu-ray player prices are coming down Player prices are still high. But they should drop this fall, for several reasons. Prices typically go down as the number of players being produced goes up. And the companies that banded together to defeat HD DVD have returned to being competitors. Also, we're finally starting to see the first players from secondary brands, which are typically priced below the major-brand offerings.
Samsung's HD-BD2S ($1,000) is one of the first Blu-ray home-theater-in-a-box systems.
5 Hollywood's on board - and getting creative Every big studio now backs Blu-ray. But more importantly, the arrival of BD-Live players has the studios planning new types of interactive content that could help drive interest in the format. In October, Disney will release its first Blu-ray Disc animated classic, Sleeping Beauty. During the movie, viewers can play games, download updated trailers, or "chat" with friends onscreen. The Blu-ray version of Finding Nemo will use BonusView to offer an interactive educational track, "Mr. Ray's Ed-venture." Lionsgate's Saw IV includes a director's "molog," or movie blog, that provides commentary during the movie. And 20th Century Fox's re-release of Alien vs. Predator will have an in-movie game that lets you attach an image of your face to an avatar and engage in multiplayer combat.
For all the reasons above, we think the stars are finally aligning for Blu-ray. So forget the doom-and-gloom forecasts and take the plunge, because the skies are looking plenty Blu.
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