Sony Targets End Caps, Costco Cuts the Cheese
Target, a store known for its own line of overpriced Choxie chocolates (promoted with admittedly cool ads), has "struck a deal" with Sony to feature Blu-ray players on end-caps this coming holiday season. And I don't mean Labor Day. The deal is significant as much for what it doesn't say as for what it does.
The announcement indicates they'll be stocking and selling the Sony BDP-S300 which sells for around $500 currently. By holiday, I'm predicting Sony's internal "Target" for their least expensive player will be $450 or even less. For one reason, the blue diode dilemma of last year is over and yields are way up. Sony doesn't seem to have any problem cranking out PS3's and in business, you have to keep making your payroll, even if you're Sony. So to meet sales forecasts and keep thousands of manufacturer's happy, it has to be a Blu Christmas and that means setting price accordingly.
Another reason Sony's player will be selling for less than its current $500 list is because of the competition. No, not HD DVD – I'm talking about the Playstation 3. Sony is currently running a fire sale on the 60 GB PS3, marking it down $100 to a cooler $500. But once the current stock is depleted (and it looks like that will be very soon), the new 80 GB version is set to take its place – supposedly at $600.
But everybody knows, it isn't so. Once the lower $500 threshold has been reached, there ain't no going back, 'State side at least. (Europe never got the price reduction, but heck, they're used to paying $8/gallon to gas up their weenie cars). Oh sure, ask the president of Sony if the PS3 is getting a price cut three days before it actually does, and he'll tell you that no decision has been made. Isn't he pretty much the last guy who would want you to hesitate before throwing down for a Sony product? Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Meanwhile, the HD DVD consortium has introduced a lot of fear and uncertainty about Sony's sales numbers, claiming (depending on the week) that HD DVD's dedicated player numbers are superior to Blu-ray numbers. But they won't say if they're including the Xbox 360 add on HD DVD drive in their numbers which, any shrewd lawyer would tell you, is technically a dedicated "player" because it can't spin up a game.
Like Mark Twain said, there are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.
And forget the Blu-ray / HD DVD format war, there's another format war going as well, and that's the war of the gaming consoles. Sony's PS3 is still $100 higher than Microsoft's 360, and the quality of Sony's games is, well, improving shall we say. But this winter, the first of the truly amazing titles for the Sony (Metal Gear Solid 4) will hit shelves and the blessed economies of scale will kick in.
But don't rule out HD DVD. They may have seemingly been losing some battles (Target and Blockbuster), but that doesn't mean they're going to necessarily lose the war. For example, back on the $10/gallon continent (yup, it went up while I was typing), HD DVD sales are better than Blu-ray. And on the opposite side of the world, Asian manufacturers are pretty convinced they can crank out HD DVD players to the point where they'll be the prize fodder in a Happy Meal in the not too distant future.
Which brings me to Costco. A few years ago, they used to carry a cheddar cheese from England that sold for roughly twice the not-too-shabby aged Cabot I'd been buying. Breaking down, I finally tried the English cheddar and fell in love. A week later I went back for more, but Costco had discontinued the line. They did that with a salsa once too, but that memory has finally started to fade. Anyway, my point is, no sooner had my local Costco set up a table and hired strippers at the entrance to sell the Toshiba HD-A20 HD DVD players then they pulled the plug!
They're not selling Blu-ray either though, but my feelings are no less bruised by their being an equal opportunity Troglodyte.