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Blu on Black
Annual sale means it’s upgrade time

11/18/10
By John Andrews jandrews@hippopress.com



Only one week ‘til Black Friday.

Thanksgiving really is the more important holiday — that is, it’s actually a holiday — but with all the buildup this year, I just can’t wait. It’s like retailers finally realized that Black Friday gets people in stores, and a lot of them, especially online, have been declaring “Early Black Friday!” or “Black Friday NOW” sales weeks and months in advance.

Besides, this year I’m really planning for the future. It’s time for me to finally get my home theater with the times.
If you haven’t jumped on the Blu-ray bandwagon yet, this is the year to do it. Fight through the crowds and you can snag a basic model for $60. Players with 3-D support, a multitude of Internet-connected apps and bundled surround sound systems will set you back only $300 rather than their normal $400 or $500.

No fewer than four stores are pushing the same Sony Blu-ray player for $99. Two warehouse clubs have essentially the same player under a different model number for $95. That’s well under the original MSRP, but only about $30 less than its current actual price. It gets generally good reviews, so naturally I’m worried.

Why the flood of this one model? Did Sony ramp up production in anticipation of Black Friday? Did they manufacture way too many and need to unload them now? A glance at their website, www.sonystyle.com, reveals that the model in question is their only current standalone Blu-ray player without 3-D support. Are they flushing it out of inventory in preparation for a major 3-D rollout?

The price premium on a 3-D Blu-ray player over plain ol’ 2-D isn’t huge. Stepping up to Sony’s first 3-D model is a mere $30 of non-Black Friday prices. More extras like Wi-Fi and faster boot times on more expensive players are then just gravy. But those aren’t the ones getting prices slashed, because they’re the newest technology.

Then there’s the matter of which television to choose. There are dozens of options just on Black Friday, and they all come with the same questions that have been plaguing HDTV buyers for years. LCD or plasma? Is LED worth the money? Do I buy an expensive 3-D set now or wait until they’re cheaper and there’s more content available?

Even more maddening are the sales that aren’t really sales. Marquee items like iPods and game systems can’t be advertised below certain prices. Apple, Microsoft and Nintendo (among other manufacturers) don’t want their hit products being discounted and turned into loss leaders just to draw folks into stores, so they make resellers agree to Minimum Advertised Pricing (MAP). That’s why you still won’t see an 8GB iPod Touch for much under $229 the day after Thanksgiving.

What you will see are extras.

The trick most everyone’s using with Apple is to include a gift card when you buy an iPod at the regular price. Toys R Us goes the farthest, with a $50 card to go along with your iPod Touch. Best Buy tacks on a $125 card when you buy a Macbook Pro or iMac. Target will give you a $15 card with an iPod Nano, as well as a $50 card with one Microsoft XBOX 360 and, heck, a $10 card for spending $100 in their store on whatever you like.

Will it be nuts in these stores Black Friday morning? Yes, yes it will.

Will I be carefully plotting my every purchase from now until then? You better believe it.






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