Sony has announced the Playstation 3 will launch in North America on November 17, 2006. Available in two versions, the console will come with either a 20GB ($499) or 60GB ($599) hard drive.
Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) announced today that it would launch PLAYSTATION3 (PS3) in "Clear Black" in North America on November 17, 2006, as part of a worldwide simultaneous launch.

PS3 is the most advanced computer system that serves as a platform to enjoy next generation computer entertainment contents in the home, realized through the combination of Cell and RSX processors, in addition to the playability of a vast catalog of PlayStation and PlayStation2 software titles. Having Giga-bit Ethernet and a pre-installed hard disk drive (HDD) as standard in PS3, users will be able to download a variety of contents as well as access on-line games and services over the network.

Equipped with basic input/output ports, PS3 supports a broad range of displays from conventional NTSC/PAL standard TVs to the latest full HD (1080i/1080p) flat panel displays, offering the joy of the most advanced computer entertainment contents to homes around the world. For use in living rooms, maximum heat and noise reduction has been achieved with a noise level equivalent to that of the current slim-line PlayStation 2.

With the overwhelming computational power of the Cell processor, PS3 is capable of playing back content from Blu-ray (BD) disc at a bit rate of multiplex 48Mbps with ease, the maximum bit rate defined in BD standards.
According to DailyTech, the PS3 can connect to the PSP and will have an online service that is completely free. If you'd like to read more, Sony's press release can be found here. Add a comment
Microsoft has confirmed that they will be unveiling an external HD DVD drive for the Xbox 360 at E3. While the company has not released a lot of technical information, they have said that it will connect to the Xbox 360 using a USB 2.0 cable, and will use the console to output HD video and surround sound.
This new accessory will connect to the Xbox 360 console with a USB cable, enabling it to harness the power of the Xbox 360 console for the HD video outputs and digital surround sound. As an accessory, it becomes another shining example of the flexibility of Xbox 360 designed into the console in order to grow and add new features. It's also just one of several new accessories being announced at E3.
While Microsoft has not announced pricing or availability, their external HD DVD drive is expected to ship in time for the Playstaton 3's launch. Of course, we'll find out more later this week when they officially unveil it at E3. In the mean time, Microsoft's press release can be found here. Add a comment
It looks like the Versatile Mulitilayer Disc (VMD) is coming to the US. NME has announced that they are planning to release over 100 HD titles on VMD later this year.
New Medium Enterprises (OTCBB:NMEN - News; NME) today announced that it will release over 100 HD titles on Versatile Mulitilayer Disc (VMD) in the United States later this year, which will include several Broadway shows. The VMD is a next generation optical disc standard suitable for high definition content, using current red laser technology with storage capabilities up to 100 GB.

Returning from a road show in the U.S., Mahesh Jayanarayan, NME's CEO, was extremely upbeat on the prospects in the U.S. marketplace stating that "We believe the opportunity for NME to succeed here in the United States is growing quickly and we are determined to exploit that opportunity as timely and completely as possible."
It will be interesting to see if VMD can compete with Blu-ray and HD-DVD. If you'd like to read more, NME's entire press release can be found here. Add a comment
The battle between Blu-ray and HD-DVD isn't limited to just the movie industry. The two formats are expected to duke it out at this year's E3. While Sony will be showcasing the Blu-ray equipped Playstation 3, Microsoft is expected to unveil an external HD DVD drive for the Xbox 360.
While most gamers are heading into the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) hoping to view the latest and greatest in video games and consoles, a key subplot will be Sony Corp.'s plan to use the PlayStation 3, the newest version of its market-leading video game console due late this year, to get its Blu-ray high-definition DVD standard into homes.

By offering DVDs with far more capacity than current standard DVDs, studios hope to breathe new life into the $24 billion home video market. But their failure to use a unified format has paved the way for a costly battle similar to the VHS/Betamax war that caused widespread customer confusion in the late 1970s through mid-1980s.

There are two rival next-generation DVD standards, including Sony's Blu-ray and HD DVD, championed by Toshiba Corp..

While Blu-ray has drawn more support among Hollywood and electronics firms, HD DVD has garnered an ally in software giant Microsoft Corp., which plans to offer an external HD DVD drive for its Xbox 360 game console that will turn it into a high-definition DVD player.
While Sony has not announced a price, the PS3 is expected to run about $499. While not exactly cheap, its a great deal considering how much stand alone Blu-ray and HD-DVD players are expected to go for. If you'd like to read more, the entire article can be found here. Add a comment
If you've been waiting for the first Blu-ray titles to ship, you're going to have to wait a little longer. According to an article at Reuters, the first batch of releases has been pushed back until June 20 to coincide with the launch of Samsung's new Blu-ray Disc player.
While high-definition DVD titles trickle into stores, the arrival of the first titles in the rival Blu-ray Disc format has been pushed back by a month until June 20.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment president Benjamin Feingold said his studio's first batch of Blu-ray releases will be ready May 23, as planned.

"But the majority of our retail base and hardware partners have requested that we reconsider this date to better coincide with the first commercially available Blu-ray-compatible hardware," Feingold said.

The decision to hold off shipping Blu-ray titles to retailers comes several weeks after Samsung announced its first Blu-ray player wouldn't arrive in stores until June 25, a month behind schedule.
I'm sure Toshiba is enjoying this. Of course, its not like they didn't delay the launch of HD DVD... twice. In any case, if you'd like to read more, the entire article can be found here. Add a comment
With the PS3 featuring expensive technologies like the cell processor and Blu-ray, Sony is expected to lose money on each console sold. How much exactly? According to an article at BusinessWeek, the company's game devision is expected to lose almost $872 million this fiscal year alone.
The results for Sony's game division during the current fiscal year will not be good however, as the company ramps up investments for the PlayStation 3, which launches worldwide this November. Sony expects the segment to hemorrhage 100 billion yen ($871.6 million) in operating losses during the business year as it prepares the PS3 for launch.

That said, in the future Sony believes it can cut down on PS3 related costs quite a bit. "We believe that we can lower costs dramatically (on the PS3) through chip shrinkage and by cutting the number of parts but there is no way to avoid high costs in the first year," Sony Senior Vice President Takao Yuhara told a Tokyo news conference, according to Reuters.
Knowing Sony, the company won't have any problem making this money back, especially if the PS3 is as popular as their previous consoles. If you'd like to read more, the entire article can be found here. Add a comment
Warner Home Video has announced that they will be releasing their first title in the HD DVD and DVD Combo format on May 9th. This first title, "Rumor Has It," will have HD DVD content on one side and standard definition DVD on the other.
Warner Home Video (WHV) has announced the release of the first title in the HD DVD and DVD Combo Format (HD DVD on one side and Standard Definition DVD on the other): "Rumor Has It," which will debut May 9, day-and-date with its Standard Definition version. In addition, WHV will release three new HD DVD titles: "GoodFellas" and "Swordfish" on May 2 and "Training Day" on May 9.

"We are pleased to be continuing our rollout of new HD DVD titles," said Stephen Nickerson, Senior Vice President, Market Management. "But what is really exciting is the release of the first title, `Rumor Has It,' in the HD DVD and DVD Combo format. Purchasing a disc now in this format is the ideal choice that gives consumers the greatest flexibility in viewing options: If they own an HD DVD player, of course, they'll get all the benefits of HD DVD and be able to play the disc in existing DVD players. If they're considering a future purchase of an HD DVD player, they can still enjoy the movie until they upgrade."
The only real downside I see here is price. "Rumor Has It" has a suggested retail price of $39.99 which is about $5-10 more than a normal HD DVD title. If you'd like to read more, the entire press release can be found here. Add a comment
Here's an interesting bit of news. According to an article at the iPod Hub, anonymous film industry insiders have said that Apple is asking studios to include iPod video content on Blu-ray discs.
Though movies on Blu-ray discs are expected to start shipping next month and a large screen iPod is still probably months away, Apple wants to make sure that when their next-generation iPod is released it will have a sufficient library of playable content already available for customers to watch.

And Apple could be in a strong position to make their wish a reality. Already in the Blu-ray camp are Sony, who Apple have been working with closely of late with regard to its HD cameras; and Disney, who have been close partners of Steve Jobs' Pixar.
With 50GB of space available on a dual layer Blu-ray disc, there should be plenty of room to include a copy of the movie in an iPod compatible format. If you'd like to read more, the entire article can be found here. Add a comment
According to Kazuhiro Tsuga, an executive officer at Matsushita, there will never be a unified format. Instead, the company is leaving it up to the consumer to decide.
The companies backing competing formats for next-generation DVD technology will never again talk about forming a unified standard, an executive at Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. said on Friday, leaving it to the consumer to choose the winning side.

"We are not talking and we will not talk," Kazuhiro Tsuga, an executive officer at Matsushita, the world's largest consumer electronics maker, told Reuters in an interview. "The market will decide the winner."

Matsushita, best known for its Panasonic brand, is a leading supporter of Blu-ray, one of two competing formats for the next-generation DVD. The other format, called HD-DVD, is backed by a group led by Toshiba Corp.
I have to agree with Mr. Tsuga. At this point, a unified format isn't going to happen. Leaving it up to the consumer isn't the best solution though, especially for those that invested in the losting format. If you'd like to read more, the entire article can be found here. Add a comment
Microsoft has announced that they are working with Universal Pictures to release HD DVD titles using VC-1 and iHD. Here's part of their press release:
Today at the National Association of Broadcasters convention, NAB2006, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT - News) and Universal Pictures announced their collaboration on the release of next-generation HD DVD discs using VC-1, the video compression standard recently approved by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and one of the mandatory codecs in the HD DVD specification. Universal will also use iHD for the interactive features of the new titles. The launch of HD DVD players and titles last week in the U.S. represents the first broad market availability of high-definition optical media for consumers.

As part of Universal's initiative to provide new digital entertainment experiences for consumers using the best solutions available, the studio is using VC-1 for its initial HD DVD titles, including "Serenity," "Doom," "Apollo 13," "The Bourne Supremacy," "U-571," "Van Helsing" and many more. Given the lower bitrate required with VC-1 to deliver pristine 1080p, high-definition movies, Universal will have room to spare within HD DVD's 30GB capacity for interactive features and other extras. With iHD, the studio is offering interactive menus that are overlaid on top of the movie and accessible without interrupting playback. Additional features, such as user-defined bookmarks that stay with the title, picture-in-picture commentaries, and network access to download new features and HD movies trailers, all access standard HD DVD features (secondary video decoder, network access and persistent storage).
The press release also mentions that all HD-DVD titles from other US studios are using the VC-1 codec as well. More information can be found here. Add a comment