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An industry executive speaks

In a series of Q&As, frontline practitioners in all facets of the packaged media and digital delivery industry share their views of things past, present and yet to come. It's the turn of SYLVIA HITZEL, VP Marketing & Sales of Singulus Technologies.

Where do you see your company's comparative advantage in this highly competitive market?

With its Optical Disc segment Singulus Technologies is the market leader for CD, DVD and Blu-ray Disc production equipment and ready to provide the machine technology for 3-layer Blu-ray Discs with a storage capacity of about 100Gb.

Amongst the range of services you offers, which one did grow in importance over the past 2 years, which one diminished, and which new service(s) will you be offering in the coming 2 years?

Singulus Technologies has developed over the years a high level of expertise and skills in combination with processes and scientific know-how and smart solutions in equipment engineering for vacuum technology, thin-film deposition, thermal treatment as well as wet chemical processes. Now Singulus machines are employed by global operators for their products in segments like Solar, Semiconductor and other coating applications. New application areas will increase in importance in the next two years. The company's spare parts and service business for the installed base of thousands of machines we sold is a strategic roadpath of our business.

Are you considering a strategic move, or have you already implemented one, into a completely different product or service market?

Singulus Technologies is continually expanding its technological core competencies, i.e. know-how in the areas of vacuum coating, nano deposition, thermal processing, wet processing, automation, process technology as well as the integration of production steps in order to open further, attractive work areas. In this context, internal growth from the development of proprietary solutions as well as acquisition opportunities for the generation of external growth are analyzed with respect to their feasible implementation.

There's a lot of alarmist talk about the rapid demise of packaged media in the face of online delivery. What is your view as to how long discs will be around? And what could become the main target market of packaged media?

There are still so many areas and countries with low internet capabilities and also many other good reasons for packaged media to be available for many more years to come.

Cloud-based UltraViolet digital locker makes inroads in Europe very slowly. What needs to happen for consumers to embrace this digital service? Could UltraViolet be superseded by large retailers' own digital locker system or by Netflix or Amazon Instant Video?

On a long run consumers will only use services which are easy to handle with good content and at a reasonable price.

Do you think UltraViolet has the potential to increase sales of BD discs (as the studios intended) or be the death knell of the packaged media?

If UltraViolet will be accepted by the consumers and if it makes sense to bundle it with packaged media, then there is definitely the potential to sell BD discs with it. However, UltraViolet is a service and a name that is not well known in the German market yet. Therefore, this still needs a lot of marketing activities and consumers education.

How much of a revolution does smart TV represent, given that consumers are already comfortable using other screens (laptops, tablets and smartphones) to access Internet-delivered content?

Maybe not a revolution! But it will be an interesting add-on for the new generation of Smart TVs.

Ultra high definition 4K TVs are coming to the market. Is this a response to consumers demanding a better quality picture or a push by CE manufacturers who need to introduce higher-margin products?

Blu-ray discs with HD content already deliver a very good picture quality. 4K further gives an even more brilliant picture quality. However, so far 4K is mainly driven by the CE industry. It will certainly help the packaged media industry if there are players for UHD available, real UHD content and Blu-ray Disc with 100 Gb storage capacity.

Do you think 4K could be the shot of adrenalin Blu-ray needs given that a BD disc is best suited to bring ultra HD content to the home?

That could happen if we see good marketing by the CE industry and the Blu-ray Association and if they use good consumer education to promote the new UHD Blu-ray Disc.

How to you see Hollywood squaring the circle between the inexorable fall of high-revenue producing packaged media and the unstoppable rise of low-revenue generating online digital delivery?

Hollywood has to produce more Blockbusters! If we see more titles like Avatar, Lord of the Rings or James Bond movies in the cinemas, this is likely to influence directly the sale of packaged media.

What is the next technology or service leap you are anticipating?

We think that the entertainment industry has to deliver integrated services for the different consumer target groups. Cinema and TV will be only the traditional way of entertainment. Mobile entertainment around the clock will open many opportunities for new businesses.

If you let your imagination run wild, what system, format, application aimed at delivering content to the home would you like to see implemented in 10 years time?

Virtual reality meaning that users can play an interactive part in the story/game could be the new type of entertainment in 10 years from now....

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On predicting the future

Predicting the future, let alone the future of packaged media, is a perilous exercise, and possibly counter-productive, as the exercise closes doors rather than keep them open, argues JEAN-LUC RENAUD, DVD Intelligence publisher. Consider that: Apple was left nearly for dead 15 years ago. Today, it became the world's most valuable technology company, topping Microsoft.

Le cinéma est une invention sans avenir (the cinema is an invention without any future) famously claimed the Lumière Brothers some 120 years ago. Well. The cinématographe grew into a big business, even bigger in times of economic crisis when people have little money to spend on any other business.

The advent of radio, then television, was to kill the cinema. With a plethora of digital TV channels, a huge DVD market, a wealth of online delivery options, a massive counterfeit underworld and illegal downloading on a large scale, cinema box office last year broke records!

The telephone was said to have no future when it came about. Today, 5 billion handsets are in use worldwide. People prioritize mobile phones over drinking water in many Third World countries.

No-one predicted the arrival of the iPod only one year before it broke loose in an unsuspecting market. Even fewer predicted it was going to revolutionise the economics of music distribution. Likewise, no-one saw the iPhone coming and even fewer forecast the birth of the developers' industry it ignited. And it changed the concept of mobile phone.

Make no mistake, the iPad will have a profound impact on the publishing world. It will bring new players, and smaller, perhaps more creative content creators.

And who predicted the revival of vinyl?

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