Funai has just began shipping their first generation of Blu-ray disc players that will be branded with various names (Magnavox, Sylvania, Emerson, Insignia, Pye). Some of these players have already began showing up in Wal-Marts for $298, super cheap for a Blu-ray player.

Funai is currently the largest manufacturer of DVD players, accounting for over one half of all DVD players sold in North America. This first step into Blu-ray is going to be big, especially if they are able to lower manufacturing costs and eventually retail prices to $200 or less over the next year or so.

These players are profile 1.1, capable of 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p (1080p/24 and 1080p 60) output. DVD upconversion to 720p, 1080i, 1080p. They do have support for Hd Audio formats, bitstream output though, no internal decoding. HDMI version 1.3, which is quite nice for all of you who care what version of HDMI you use.

This is the second step to making Blu-ray really take off, the first of which was killing off HD-DVD. Getting players down to prices that start to make the average consumer actually consider them is crucial, especially with the ever increasing pressure from the idea of consumers downloading their content.

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