One of the main backers of the Blu-ray Disc format, Samsung Electronics, plans to release an optical disc player this year that will play both Blu-ray Disc and the rival HD DVD format.

Samsung hopes to make the BD-UP5000 player available before the end of 2007 in the US, said Kwak Bumjoon, a spokesman for the company in Seoul. He said the player could be available in Europe in the following few months, but an exact release schedule has not been decided. No details on possible pricing were also available.

The news makes Samsung the second company to shift from a single-format stance and adopt the idea of a dual player than can read both types of disc. The other, LG Electronics, launched a dual player in North America earlier this year.

Consumer electronics and computer companies have been divided on the two formats for the last few years. Blu-ray Disc is principally backed by Sony and other major supporters include Panasonic, Sharp and Dell. HD DVD's main supporter is Toshiba and it also counts the support of Microsoft and Intel as well as the backing of the DVD Forum, the group behind the DVD format.

The result has been widespread confusion among consumers who, if they buy one of the new players, face the prospect of not being able to play some of their favourite films because the movie studios have also picked sides.

So it might appear to consumers more than a little ironic that Samsung, which helped create the format mess in the first place, is trying to push the new player as something it's doing because it thinks of consumers ahead of business.

"Our main concern is with the consumer and not a particular technology," said Kwak.

Sony's BDP-S300 will launch in the middle of the year for about $599 (£300) while Toshiba's HD-A2 player carries a recommended price of $399 (£200) but can currently be found on for $309 (£155). In contrast LG's BH100 dual-format player costs $1,000 (£505).