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Blu-ray market hits 5 million units

Sales of DVD recorders and players featuring GaN-based blue lasers are set to more than double in 2008, and may reach 12 million in 2009, says a new report from In-Stat.

Though remaining dwarfed by the wider market for standard DVD hardware, sales of Blu-ray players and recorders are set to leap to 5 million units this year.

That's according to a new report on the DVD and Blu-ray market just published by analyst firm In-Stat.

Principal analyst Michelle Abraham says that although the high-definition DVD "format war" ended in early 2008, with Sony comprehensively defeating rival Toshiba's HD-DVD format, sales of Blu-ray players will not reach those of regular DVD hardware any time soon. For comparison, 142 million standard red-laser DVD players and recorders were sold in 2007.

The tactics employed by Toshiba towards the end of the format war, when the Japanese firm slashed the cost of its players to $99, helped boost the 2007 market for blue-laser-based DVD hardware to around 2 million units.

And despite the relative lack of competition and the persistently high price of Blu-ray players, the 5 million units expected to ship this year will represent year-on-year unit growth of 150 per cent.

Abraham expects that momentum to be kept up next year, and is predicting that 12 million players and recorders will ship in 2009, with sales led by the likes of Sony and Samsung.

As well as standalone Blu-ray players, GaN lasers feature in Sony's PlayStation3 (PS3) games console and in high-end PC drives - market segments outside the scope of the latest In-Stat report. Sony sold just over 9 million PS3s in the year that ended March 2008, and anticipates doubling that figure in the current fiscal year. The Japanese electronics giant expects to sell a staggering ¥1 trillion ($9.6 billion) worth of Blu-ray related products in total during that time.

Consumer electronics companies in Taiwan and China are expected to launch their own Blu-ray products soon, which ought to increase demand for blue lasers by pushing down the price of the players. However Abraham, who admits that the format has still proved a little too expensive for her personal investment, believes that this move may not be made in time for the December 2008 holiday season.

With Sony, Nichia and Sharp thought to dominate the supply of laser chips for the Blu-ray format, it now appears that the initially poor manufacturing yields are no longer restricting their supply.

Blu-ray recorders, which use higher-power GaN lasers to write data onto the high-resolution discs, already represent up to one-third of the Blu-ray market, Abraham adds. This is because consumers in Japan in particular have bought into the Blu-ray recorder concept in a much bigger way than their European and North American counterparts, who have migrated to high-density hard-drive recorders instead.

In-Stat s market report “Worldwide DVD and Blu-ray Market” is available now via the company s web site.

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