Dreaming of a Blu Christmas

Blu-ray players, particularly those that can exploit Internet video services, are a hot item this shopping season.

Just 3½ years after Samsung Electronics Co. introduced the first Blu-ray player for $999, prices have dropped to as low as $80, making them an irresistible item for many consumers this year. Shoppers can now find dozens of brand-name Blu-ray players by the likes of Samsung, Sony Corp. (SNE) and Panasonic Co. (PC) in the $130 range at large retailers, with some available for $99 or less in promotions.

But shoppers are also flocking to models that cost a bit more, starting around $150, for their ability to stream content from the Internet, including movies, television shows and music from services like Netflix Inc. (NFLX), Google Inc.’s (GOOG) YouTube and Pandora Media Inc.

Sales of both basic and new-wave Blu-ray players were up 53 percent during the week of Black Friday, according to market-research company NPD Group Inc., which obtains point-of-sale data from undisclosed electronics sellers, excluding Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT)

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus