Ever since Sony announced the availability in the USA of its BDP-S300 Blu-ray player, which slots in below the original BDP-S1, I've been endeavouring to find out when, or indeed if, it would be coming to the UK, writes Andrew Everard.
I'd assumed the less expensive machine would be just the thing to take on the low-priced HD DVD machines already available here, and make something of a fight of the non-event the HD format war so far seems to be.
So I was a bit surprised when Sony came in to see the WHFSV guys the other week with the UK version of the BDP-S1, the BDP-S1E, which you can now buy for around £800-900 or so.
Where was the less expensive machine? Would it even come to the UK, or would the budget Blu-ray job be left in the hands of the PlayStation 3?
Well, the answer comes from an unlikely source: Argos.
Browsing the catalogue people's website last night in an effort to find out just how little you could spend on a DVD player these days – £17.79, by the way, for a Mikomi DS-306 – up popped not only the Sony BDP-S1E, on special offer at a penny under £700, but also the BDP-S300 at £200 less.
Out of stock, available to reserve, agreed - but there it was in black and white. Or rather black and blue.
The emails hummed back and forth 'twixt Teddington and Sony UK HQ at Brooklands, and back came the answer: it seems Argos rather jumped the gun on this one, as Sony UK hadn't even received their samples of the Euro-spec BDP-S300 yet! Availability? 'We'll let you know when we do' was the essence of the reply.
So it seems Sony will soon have two Blu-ray players on the market, but unfortunately not at the kind of price levels they are in the States. You can find a BDP-S1 (the non-CD-playing US version) there for $649.99, while the BDP-S300 is $479.99. And that's without too much hunting - on Amazon.com, actually.
Now I'm not singling Sony out over this one – it's far from being the only manufacturer to ignore the exchange rates we get when we go on our hols in favour of the 'audio exchange rate' mechanism, in which one pound has equalled one dollar for as long as most of us can remember.
And I'm not getting into the ins and outs of all the reasons why prices are higher here on everything from fuel (37p a litre in the States) to food (less than £2 a kilo for strawberries, and ribeye steak at £7/kg) to Blu-ray players.
But I can't help wondering whether a brace of Sony Blu-ray players selling for £350 and £275 might not be just the kick up the backside the format needs here in the UK. After all, something like 1400 Blu-ray players - standalone ones, not including PS3s -
have been sold so far in the UK.
In the same period Sony Pictures have sold 2.2m DVDs of Casino Royale.