The next-gen HD format war heated up today after Target, the second largest retailer in the US, announced that it would begin to sell standalone Blu-ray players exclusively in its retail stores starting late this fall and into the holiday season.

Target will begin carrying Sonyís least expensive BDP-S300 Blu-ray player sometime in October for $499 alongside Blu-ray DVDs from several studios. Although this is the first standalone HD player sold at Target retail stores, the company does sell a Toshiba HD DVD player through its web site and carries both HD DVD and Blu-ray titles in its stores.

Still, the move by Target further boosts the Sony-backed technology and may deal another blow to rival HD-DVD. Just this June, Blockbuster turned its back to the HD DVD camp by announcing plans to line its shelves with Blu-ray DVDs only, saying that Blu-ray rentals are "significantly outpacing HD DVD rentals."

However, with the PlayStation 3 console and LGís new multi-format players now selling for $499 or less, I donít see why anyone would bother buying the Sony BDP-S300. Perhaps bringing the price down a little more could jump start sales of Sonyís standalone player.