Matsushita to Launch Blu-ray in Europe, HDMI for Controls

Matsushita will introduce its Panasonic and JVC brands of Blu-ray DVD players in Europe by next fall, with price points starting near the middle range of units already announced by competitors Samsung and Pioneer ranging from $1,000-$1,500 (or as much as 20 times the price of current DVD players).

Competing HD DVD players are expectedly to start in the $500 range, as both formats compete head on for the estimated $24 billion-a-year home video market. According to published reports, Matsushita also plans to produce Blu-ray recordable-playback drives for computers in coming months.

Matsushita has been a strong supporter of Blu-ray and said despite nearly double the price points of rival HD DVD product lines, it believes higher capacity discs, record-capable functions and other attributes make Blu-ray a better buy. (Consumers will soon begin to indicate whether they agree.)

Matsushita also announced this week it will soon introduce HDMI for consumer control features within its flatscreen products. Typically, HDMI (high definition multimedia interface) has been used since its introduction a few years ago for video and audio transmission.

Matsushita said in published reports it will begin to use the HDMIspec to defines control protocols in order to simplify technology. Many households often find it necessary to employ two, three or more remote controls to watch television or DVD. The HDMI products will first appear in Japan in April, and go global in the months ahead.

As far as HD monitors, Matsushita's current goal is to sell one million plasma sets (and about 40 percent global market share) and 800,000 LCD units in Europe in this calendar year under the Panasonic brand.