It’s interesting to see a news story that starts with a denial. Take the recent TWICE headline that ran June 28: "Samsung Fully Supports Blu-ray, Denies HD-DVD Combo Reports." What’s interesting is that the source of the initial, erroneous "report" was not some rogue blog site but Samsung itself.
Senior Analyst and Editor
of Projection Monthly
A week earlier, a lot of ink was spilled when, at a Samsung-sponsored three-day press junket (yes, Seoul in high summer - go figure) Du-hyon Kim, a middle manager from product planning at Samsung, said "We are considering a player that can play BD and HD-DVD, a universal player. We can’t say when we might introduce such a player. We are preparing the HD-DVD right now. If we launch a universal player, the decision would be made at the end of this year or early next year."
Turns out what he really meant to say was… "Samsung has no intention to join the HD-DVD player market. But if market trends are going to HD-DVD or to a universal player, then we are going too."
To back up the commitment the company also announced its planning forecast for Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD sell through. According to the company’s research, 620K Blu-ray and HD-DVD players will be sold worldwide in 2006, 400K play-only decks and 220K recorders. Of these, the company predicts the Blu-ray camp will claim a 60/40 split with HD-DVD format devices by the end of the year. The company goes on to predict total unit growth in 2010 to reach almost 40M units. What the company can’t say is how the format split will look that far out.
Truth is, even the 60/40 split this year is wishful thinking at best. And most certainly, Samsung’s managers are not writing off the possibility that the HD-DVD format could take the high ground. They may not have a formal HD licensing agreement with Toshiba in place, but the idea is on Samsung’s roadmap. Case in point: That same TWICE story, reported by Stuart Wolpin, describes a slide shown during the Samsung Blu-ray roadmap presentation, which shows a "Universal Player" slated for 3Q’06.
Our take: For any CE company, picking a winning format in the opening days of a "war" isn’t all that easy and, despite the recent back-peddling from the company, we believe Samsung is indeed hedging its bets with the HD-DVD format in the lab at least - and most probably with a full-blown product-development program. Samsung’s managers would be fools to do otherwise. And Samsung - a highly successful Korean colossus - doesn’t employ many fools.