Hot on the heels of last week's report from ABI Research noting that many consumers may not see the picture quality difference between Blu-ray and standard DVDs comes the latest Blu-ray sales figures from NPD Group. And they're not pretty.

According to NPD, sales of Blu-ray standalone players plummeted 40 percent from January to February, then rose a scant 2 percent from February to March. The general consensus was that once Toshiba dropped its support for the HD DVD format early this year, sales would increase.

In fact, sales of Blu-ray standalone players remain so low that NPD has not yet released actual numbers, for fear that it would be easy to identify individual retailers. The research group will start to give actual figures later this year, said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis at NPD.
The end of the format wars clearly did little to boost Blu-ray's prospects. Like others, Mr. Rubin said the much cheaper upconverting standard DVD players are winning consumers' hearts and wallets.

The price of upconverting players is hovering around $70. And this week, Amazon is giving them away for free when consumers purchase certain Samsung TVs. The result: a 5 percent uptick in upconverting DVD player sales in the first quarter of 2008, compared to same quarter a year ago, and a 39 percent decline in players that don't have that feature.

With Blu-ray players still costing more than $300 -- and a number of players on the market still lacking some Blu-ray features like Internet connectivity -- NPD now figures that Blu-ray's future won't be clear until this Christmas, when prices should drop to the $200 range.

ABI Research is even less optimistic. In a report released yesterday, the research firm figures it could take until October 2009 until Blu-ray gains a foothold in the market.

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