A media rep for the Blu-ray Disc Association recently sent us an email mentioning the Philips BDP9000/37 in it, and we couldn't find any retailers selling it at the time. Well today we're getting reports on the availability of the player at Wal-mart for only $898, apparently already shipping. Most other major big box and online retailers -- we checked Best Buy, Circuit City, Amazon, Target, Buy.com, and Newegg -- either don't have it listed at all, or have it for pre-order only. A post at AVS Forum notes that some Wal-mart stores may simply be selling the player before its potential release date of November 1st, so potential buyers should move quickly in case this was a mistake. There's also some confusion as to whether the box is just a rebranded Samsung BD-P1000, or if it has different parts inside; the consensus so far seems to be that it uses the same reference design but with different video DAC (digital-to-analog converter) components (216MHz vs 192MHz for the Samsung). The Philips model features a Faroudja scaler for upscaling standard-def DVDs up to 1080p (progressive) on HDMI or 1080i (interlaced) on component, HD playback of WMV HD (VC-1) video, HDMI and multi-channel audio outputs, a multiformat card reader, and support for BD-ROM / BD-R / BD-RE / BD9, DVD+/-R,+/-RW, CD-R / RW, MP3, JPEG, and HD JPEG. Another thing to note is the reduced price when compared to the $1000 - $1300 pricetags of the Samsung and Panasonic players. Are we starting to see the effects of competition in the next-generation player market? And will the availability of multiple vendors for Blu-ray products push the price down (think economies of scale) faster or further than the effectively one-manufacturer HD DVD format?
[Thanks, Frédéric B.]