Panasonic has Blu-ray jolt

Unit sets new playback benchmark

In a significant development for the surging Blu-ray Disc campaign, Panasonic on Tuesday unveiled a next-generation Blu-ray Disc player with enhanced interactivity, including picture-in-picture and audio mixing.

The DMP-BD30 will ship Monday and should be in stores nationwide within a week, said Eisuke Tsuyuzaki, vp corporate development for Panasonic and GM of its Blu-ray Disc Group. Tsuyuzaki expects stores to have the new player in time for the holiday season "by the bucketload."

The $499 list player is the first Blu-ray player to be introduced with Final Standard Profile, with a variety of new and enhanced features. Among them are picture-in-picture and audio mixing, which lets users switch sound between the main and secondary windows.

The 1080p player also includes an SD memory card slot for playback of high-definition content recorded in the AVCHD format. The slot also allows viewing of digital still images recorded to a high-capacity HD SD card.

Panasonic Entertainment Group vp Gene Kelsey said the introduction of the new player should "contribute greatly to Blu-ray's mounting lead over the competing format (HD DVD)."

The DMP-BD30 comes with various other technological advances, including deep color compatibility and HDMI 1.3B, which bumps the step gradation from 8-bit 256 all the way up to 12-bit 4,096.

The player also provides 1080/24p playback, so consumers can enjoy the same 24-frames-per-second reproduction as the original movie.