First Generation Blu-ray Players' Interactivity Crippled?

If you've been reading UAV regularly you know that the remaining first generation Blu-ray disc players scheduled for release this year are just starting to trickle in. UAV has recently posted its takes on Panasonic's DMP-BD10 and Sony's BDP-S1, and rest assured that a full review of Sony's PlayStation3 is being fact-checked by Sony and will appear soon.

UAV has been critical of these players for lacking an Ethernet port because including this feature would make firmware and system updates faster and easier, and also because of the obvious potential disappointment early adopters may face when interactivity features of Blu-ray Discs sold in stores can't be accessed by players without broadband Ethernet connections. A recent article from Video Business revealed that these features are already on tap for the second half of 2007 from Fox and other studios could follow, perhaps much to the chagrine of some early adopters.

So, for those keeping score at home, the Video Business article makes it clear that "BD Live" interactivity features requiring broadband Internet connectivity were touted by the Blu-ray camp at CES 2006, this past January, and will be touted again at CES 2007 next month. Given that the Blu-ray camp knew well that these features loomed in BD's future, it makes one wonder why on earth players from Samsung, Panasonic and now Sony have shipped with no Ethernet connectivity (the listing on Philips' web site for its BD player makes no mention of Ethernet, and we've not seen it nor have we yet read any first hand reports on its connectivity).

The VB article also states that incompatibility with BD Live is expected to be "remedied by second generation players dues some time next year." It's not clear if this refers to the Ethernet connections, or other aspects of the hardware's capabilities or the system software/firmware in the players. Still, how does an IOU sound for a stocking stuffer this year?

The rival HD DVD format shipped its first generation players with Ethernet connections that are used for the, ahem, frequent system updates the players seem to require, but soon may be used for more. At recent demonstrations by the HD DVD group it's been claimed that downloadable features are being looked at by studios and are a strong possibility in the future. No active demos were made, nor were timetables for the Internet-based features given. It's also not known Toshiba's players have

Blu-ray's supporters have long made much of the Java-based interactivity that the format would allow, but unless I'm missing something Internet-based features just aren't going to be possible for players with no networking capability. So, thus far the big winners among the first generation players are Sony's PlayStation3 and Pioneer Elite's BDP-HD1, both of which feature Ethernet connectivity (and Wi-Fi in the case of PS3), and thus have at least a chance of working with networked interactivity. Of course, that's assuming both have the hardware and system software that can make sense of these new downloadable features that stream off the 'Net...