Personally, I'm able to keep all of the specs straight and I know enough to be able to sort out exactly what components can do what and how they will work together. But for the average consumer, I really believe the whole Blu-ray player situation is just too darn complicated.
The sad reality is that everybody knows you cannot trust the employees at a big box store to know anything, so having all of these various and, in some cases, incompatible specs only leads to one course of action: avoidance.
It's great to see Blu-ray player prices coming down. Kudos to Funai for managing to put together a lower cost platform and allowing it to be rebadged by all of these "second tier" brands. The Memorex and Philips players are identical and the Insignia, Magnavox and Sylvania players are identical to those as well, except they forego the 5.1 analogue audio outputs found on the Memorex/Philips.
But I still find the entire situation to be very problematic. In order to fix it, here's what I personally think needs to happen:
1) For the love of Pete, make BD-Live and internal decoding of ALL HD audio formats mandatory in each and every player!
Even if the average person never uses a single BD-Live feature and never uses a surround sound system capable of playing DD+, TrueHD, DTS-HD High Res or DTS-HD Master, what they WILL care about is that their player may not be able to handle all aspects of the Blu-ray format and since they don't understand any of it anyway, that scares them away!
Just mandate the each and every Blu-ray player is a COMPLETE Blu-ray player and can do everything the Blu-ray format can do! Done. Simple. Let's move on.
2) Don't offer 5.1 or 7.1 analogue audio outputs on any low cost players. Seeing all those plugs just confuses the average person. And when they see one player has what looks to them like a hundred plugs, but another one doesn't have them, well, there again...just confusion and avoidance. They don't understand, so they won't even bother!
Low cost player should all have BD-Live and all decode every single audio format internally. Then, you only put a HDMI, component video and optical connection on the back (and I guess a stereo analogue too). That's it!
If they're buying a new surround sound system, they can get one that can handle PCM audio via HDMI and that'll be that. If they have an older system or are buying a non HDMI surround sound system, they can use the optical. Done. Simple.
3) Any HD audio bitstream output or 5.1/7.1 analogue audio outputs should only be available on "higher end" players. The type that only people who know what they are doing will buy.
The average consumer really knows next to nothing about electronics. It needs to be a simple as possible. That means ONE and ONLY ONE player standard. And you need to literally be able to unbox the player, plug it into the wall, plug in ONE connection (HDMI) and be done! No other setup. No other options. Plug and play. That's all the average consumer can handle. And Lord knows, we can't count on the employees to know any more either!
All of the other options are great. But leave them only in "higher end" players for people who know what they're doing. Literally so it's easy to say, "if you have to ask, this is not the player for you."