Beginning of the End?

Is it the beginning of the end for Blu-ray?  Already? A new Blu-ray player from LG Electronics might just foreshadow the future of Blu-day, and its ultimate demise.

The rumor mill has been buzzing since January and now it's official. LG will introduce the BD300 Network Blu-ray player in September. It can stream Netflix movies in the U.S. That's right. Pundits have long predicted that someday we'll all get tired of handling (and storing) round pieces of plastic, and instead we'll just get the content online. In other words, formats such as CD, DVD and BD will disappear, and everything will be available in the ether. At least that's one view of the future.

Meanwhile, we have the BD300. Netflix subscribers can use it to instantly stream to their TV more than 12,000 standard-definition movies and TV episodes. This service is available at no additional increase in their monthly fee. You heard right.

More details and pricing.....

Of course, the BD part of the player will play high definition Blu-ray discs, and up-convert standard DVDs to 1080p. The player also has BD Live which provides real-time interactivity, and BonusView which provides picture-in-picture access to Blu-ray disc features.The player also sports LG's SimpLink technology which allows users to control similarly equipped LG products. The player will include a built-in Ethernet port for a wired connection to in-home Internet networks.

The player will rely on the wired broadband connection and queue-based user interface. Netflix subscribers will use the Netflix Web site to add movies and TV episodes to their individual instant Queues. Those choices will automatically be displayed on TVs and will be available to watch through the LG player. Once selected, movies will begin playing in as little as 30 seconds, LG says. With the BD300's remote control, Netflix members will be able to browse and make selections on the TV screen and also have the ability to read synopses and rate movies. The streamed videos can also be fast-forwarded and rewound.

Netflix membership including an unlimited streaming video package runs about $8.99/month. The BD300 will sell for "well under $500."

Netflix has been aggressive with their streaming set-top box strategy. The $99 Roku box is already available, and Microsoft's Xbox 360 will add Netflix capability this fall. But having Netflix built in a Blu-ray player is a convenient win-win situation. This is the first Blu-ray player that has Netflix streaming. As such, it puts disc playback head to head against streaming. It will be interesting to see how users deal with the choice. The question is, who is befitting more from this merger? Netflix, or Blu-ray? -Ken C. Pohlmann