HONG KONG: Blu-ray players - the Chinese are coming!
Fine sunshine for the opening of the Hong Kong Electronics Fair's 2009 Autumn Edition, and while the show feels a little more compact than this time last year, there's a clear indication that the Hong Kong and mainland China- based companies represented here are moving into the TV and Blu-ray market in a very big way.
There may have been stories of late of China opting for its own high-definition disc format – known as China Blue –, but it's clear that whether you want a Full HD LCD TV or a bargain Blu-ray player, these companies are ready to deliver.
And provided you're willing to sign on the dotted line for the odd containerload – at the Fair we're not talking how much for one, but what the minimum order quantity is – you can choose the brand name you have on the product.
Typical of the BD players on offer here at the show, where buyers meet manufacturers, is this slimline machine from Dalian-based Huala.
It's part of a range including LCD TVs from 10in to 42in, and like many of the products here it comes with a range of extra facilities, although of course the final spec will depend on what the customer wants.
You get BD Profile 2.0 capability, an Ethernet port, HDMI upscaling to 1080P, USB 2.0 playback and a choice of colours. Oh, and if you want the player half-size, the company can do that too: it comes in standard 43cm width or 28cm, and a choice of black or silver.
Then there's this machine from Dune, based just up the road from where I'm writing this in Kowloon. The Dune HD Prime 3.0 is a full Profile 2.0 Blu-ray player, complete with Ethernet port and optional wi-fi – down to the customer again – and also has three USB ports and an eSATA hard drive port, enabling content to be played from hard disk. It's suggested this one could sell in Europe for €350-400 when it becomes available very soon.
The company has a range of these players, from the HD Base 3.0, which only has a hard drive built-in, to the HD Centre. which has both BD and hard drives, can also access net radio, IPTV and streaming music services, and can act as a network storage device.
Clearly these companies are thinking beyond the current play-only machines on the market, and speaking to some industry observers here in Hong Kong it's clear we could well be about to see a revolution in Blu-ray similar to that when the first Chinese-brand DVD machines started to appear in the UK a few years back.
That should bring prices tumbling and speed the uptake of the format, but don't expect the new boom to be all about bargains and stripped-down players: the news from here in Hong Kong is that the budget players are coming, but so is greatly enhanced functionality.
More news coming up from the Hong Kong show, but for now click here for some of the sights and sounds of this major electronics showcase.