How Much Cheaper Does HD On A Disc Need To Get?
It's essentially one of a million such articles I've read in the mainstream press- there's a hi-def format war, and that HD on a disc is so hideously expensive that consumers should sit on the fence counting their pennies. This is the first time I felt compelled to respond because some of the information presented was outright wrong, and other components of it especially misleading. Following is the text of an email I wrote to the author.
Jennifer- Content Agenda had a link to your story on the next-gen HD disc formats, which was dated July 4th but could have been written earlier. I note this because it's possible your article was written prior to recent price changes on Toshiba's HD DVD players, and perhaps likely given that the $499 Sony Blu-ray player you reference as upcoming is in fact available for purchase now (the model is the BDP-S300).
I noticed one outright inaccuracy, and a couple of things I think are misleading that I'd like to point out to you.
First, the pricing you provide ($399 in your article) on Toshiba's low-end player is incorrect. The Toshiba HD-A2 which now has an official MSRP of $299 and is available online for less. Included with this player are five free HD DVDs, which would cost more than $100 if purchased separately (almost every Blu-ray player now on the market, including the $499 Sony player you reference and the $599 PlayStation3, are also eligible for five free Blu-ray Discs representing at least $100 in free software).
Apple's 30GB iPod retails for $249. It comes with no free software of any kind. Many of the iPod's docking options, boom boxes, and other accessories cost real money too. Have you ever written or read anywhere that the iPod is too expensive a proposition for consumers?
In your article there is also an implication that there is a "hidden cost" in an HD disc player- that consumers need to buy a 42" plasma at an average cost of $1,800 to receive the true benefit of the improved image. This is misleading on a number of fronts.
First, household penetration of HDTV in the US is now at 30%, and estimated to hit 36% by year's end. This means there are tens of millions of households that already have an HDTV that will make a spectacular picture when fed by Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. No additional purchase necessary, in other words.
Second, citing an average price for 42" plasmas is misleading. There are plenty of attractive options in 42" flat panels that cost less than the $1,800 average.
Below are links to two manufacturers whose flat panels products we've reviewed whose hi-def flat panel TVs can be found at prices closer to $1,000 (in fact, both offer 50" plasmas at prices lower than the $1,800 average you claim for 42" plasmas).
Jennifer, I don't write this to be personally critical. This is hardly the first article I've read that throws FUD at the next-gen HD formats by citing the costs associated as outlandishly expensive. I just take exception to this conclusion and am bothered that the mainstream press is constantly exaggerating the costs associated with next-gen HD to consumers. I'm also bothered that when articles such as yours are written they are not substantiated with any hands-on demonstrations of how fantastic the picture and sound from these new formats really are. Is that not a part of the value equation?
In closing- only by today's outrageously "commodotized" pricing on DVD players are the next-gen players expensive. Not only are these players less expensive by far than the first DVD players that came to market ten years ago, they are far less expensive than the first top-loading VCRs that appeared in the early 80s (the first stereo VCR in my family came from Sears and carried a price tag of over $800 in 1982-ish dollars).
Hi-def players are now nearly at price parity with Apple's mid-line 30GB iPod. How much cheaper does it have to get before the mainstream press will write some articles that focus on how good the picture and sound is?