Europe's online source of news, data & analysis for professionals involved in packaged media and new delivery technologies

News in Brief - april 2003


Denon has a PAL version of its DVD-2900 universal DVD-Audio/SACD player. Company claims it will be the only machine capable of delivering legal PAL progressive video. Machine will go on sale in the UK with a recommended retail price of just £850.

Bertelsmann’s online bookstore Bol.com, which sells DVDs to around 875,000 customers and is the largest of its kind in the Netherlands, has been bought by Deutsche Telekom's venture capital subsidiary, Holtzbrink NetworXs, and Weltbild, a publishing house. The three groups each have an equal share of the company. The transaction has yet to be approved by regulators, as well as the supervisory boards of the companies.

Canopus Corporation inaugurated a new line of professional realtime MPEG encoding and DVD authoring solutions for DVD producers, multimedia professionals and video enthusiasts. The first products to be released in this series are the MPEGPRO MVR and the MPEGPRO EMR ($499 each). Both products feature advanced pre-filtering and variable bit rate encoding capabilities to provide MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video. Quality is good even at low bitrates, says the company, which describes the product as “a perfect solution for preparing video for CD, DVD or network transmission.” While the MPEGPRO MVR is a PCI-based board, the MPEGPRO EMR is an external unit that connects to the computer through the USB-1 or USB-2 port and enables users to create MPEG streams even on a laptop computer.

MGM Home Entertainment shipped its largest ever initial retail order of DVDs and videocassettes for the North American release of Die Another Day – 8 million copies, with another 8 million copies expected to be shipped overseas by the time orders from all countries come in. The title also marks what is believed to be the highest percentage of DVDs for a major release, with 93% of all copies being delivered in the U.S. and Canada on the digital format compared with just 7% on VHS. The studio is taking reorders for Die Another Day in the UK and other parts of Europe, where the video was released in late April. MGM expects the film to generate twice the business of the previous top James Bond movie, the 1995 theatrical release Golden Eye, which has generated $100 million worldwide in consumer spending on the purchase and rental of the VHS and DVD.

Gracenote, which developer of the CDDB (Compact Disc Database) CD-recognition tool, is working on a DVD-recognition database and a waveform-analysis technology. Latter will extend the music database’s capabilities to a greater variety of consumer electronics products. CDDB makes it possible for Internet-connected PCs, CD megachangers and hard-drive music jukeboxes to download album and track names, artist names, and genre on a track-by-track basis without manually typing in the information. Consumers use the stored data to sort and select songs by album, artist, or genre. By the autumn, Gracenote will offer its Video ID database technology to suppliers for inclusion in DVD-Video megachangers, carousel changers and single-disc players.

The Czech government said Taiwan's largest electronics component maker, Hon Hai Precision Industry Corp., planned a huge expansion of its Czech unit, Foxconn CZ. Move marks the heightened interest Taiwan electronic firms are showing in Eastern Europe.The off-China island's leading downstream computer firms are increasingly building plants in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, seeking an alternative cheap base to China to serve the large Western European market. The emergence of the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in China has reinforced the move, as the viral outbreak highlights the risks to the global technology supply chain if manufacturers operate only in China. While China remains a cheaper production base, Eastern Europe's geography offers savings. Quanta, which is the world's number-one notebook computer maker and counts Dell Computer Corp and Hewlett Packard Co as its major clients, plans to open new factories in the Czech Republic later this year.

Pinnacle Systems announced June 2 the release of a new version of Pinnacle Edition, the company's collection of video editing and DVD authoring tools for video professionals. Version 5 has improved speed processing, an expanded menu of special effects that can be viewed in real time as they are added to video segments, and more editing tools for creating DVD menus and navigational features. Pro package includes a PC graphics card.

Philips won customers for the recently introduced DVD+R/+RW turnkey semiconductor reference design. Among others, three DVD recorder makers – Daewoo Electronics, Mico Electric and Tae Young Telstar – have selected Philips' DVD+R/+RW reference design based upon the company's Nexperia system solution. The three companies plan on introducing DVD+RW recorders at competitive prices to accelerate the growth of this high volume market. This support boosts Philips' position in semiconductor solutions for DVD+RW. It also demonstrates the rapid penetration of the DVD+RW format in the consumer electronics domain. The primary drivers for penetrating the consumer market are price and ease of use. Philips' DVD+R/+RW reference design offers both to DVD recorder makers. They need simply to add a recording button to the well-known DVD player interface.

Potential enhancement of the home entertainment experience lurched forward with the novel development of a DVD player with a karaoke function. Shenzhen Kezhiguang’s DVD-2811B DVD player is compatible with DVD, HDCD, SVCD, VCD, CD and MP3 formats. It supports a 500-line resolution, Dolby Digital/DTS and a 5.1-channel analogue audio output. The karaoke function supports digital echo. And, importantly, pitch adjustment is included. The player features auto screen protection, super error correction, programmable playback and multi-angle functioning. It has a color fluorescent display and Chinese/English OSD. The unit has coaxial, video and S-video outputs. It measures 430 by 300 by 77mm and runs on a 220V AC power supply.

With the format finalisation from the DVD Forum due to be completed later this year, the development of the initial version of Toshiba/NEC’s AOD (Advanced Optical Disc) project is expected to be finished sometime in 2004. So says Junko Furuta, a spokeswoman for Toshiba in Tokyo. A commercial launch will also depend on market readiness and the company has yet decide when AOD products might go on sale. Both NEC and Toshiba recently demonstrated AOD drives suitable for use in personal computers at the CeBIT electronics show in Germany. Toshiba was displaying a mock-up while NEC had a functioning drive and was demonstrating high-definition video playback through a computer. Toshiba demonstrated a dual-layer rewritable AOD disc at the Optical Storage 2003 conference in Vancouver, Canada, in May.

Iomega Corporation bought into Sonic MyDVD and Sonic CinePlayer 1.5 as the DVD creation and playback applications to be bundled with its DVD-recordable drives. Based on Sonic technology that has become the standard for Hollywood title production, MyDVD enables Iomega DVD drive users to create DVDs with motion-video menus, animated buttons and high-quality DVD slideshows with transitions and soundtracks while maintaining compatibility across settop and PC DVD players. MyDVD supports DVD+VR and is OpenDVD-compliant, enabling previously burned DVDs to be opened, re-edited, updated with new video and photo content and re-burned to recordable DVD media.

The Led Zeppelin DVD set a record for highest debut-week and highest single-week sales for a music DVD. The title sold 120,000 units in the US to bow at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Music Videos chart. It easily broke the record previously held by Paul McCartney Back In The U.S. (Capitol), which sold 61,000 units in its debut week late in 2002.

Austria-based Sony DADC is marketing Postscribed ID, a new technology for recording ID data onto CD-ROMs after their production. The product is designed to offer identification of registered users, and to prevent simultaneous user-access to original data and encryption key distribution. Postscribed ID enables disc publishers to inscribe a unique ID onto a CD-ROM's signal surface after the stamping process. The use of a high-power laser diode, a new reflective layer material and accurate location control technology, enable ID data to be recorded to a prescribed area. This information is individually determined by the disc publisher and can consist of serial numbers, registration numbers, or authentication codes that are automatically read by any PC drive and invisible to disc users.

Market research firm In-Stat/DMR reports that, in addition to TV sets, VCRs, cars, and home theater systems, DVD players have been added to cable settop boxes and personal video recorders (PVRs). As a result of being combined with an increasing number of consumer electronics products, the DVD player market will hit 84 million units in 2006. "DVD Player shipments increased again in 2002, growing by 61%" says the company. "The increased form factors and low prices are keeping interest in purchasing DVD players up, though the DVD player market is maturing and the worldwide shipment growth rate is slowing down." In 2005 and 2006, DVD recorders will be purchased in place of DVD players, reaching 32 million units in 2006, the forecasters say. Though growth is slowing in the US, it will still be the largest region in unit shipments through 2004. The growth rate in Europe will be higher than that of North America through 2005. Europe has been one year behind the US, in terms of the market’s unit shipment growth rate. China’s domestic market will surpass that of the US in unit shipments in 2006.

DVD player sales in South Africa has grown steadily over the past five years, with interest in VCRs declining, according to local reports. Retailers say the DVD format has yet to overtake video cassette recorders due to the high cost of DVD recorders. Last year, an estimated 240,000 VCRs, 70,000 DVDs and 26,000 DVD home theatre units were sold, according to the Reunert marketing company. Panasonic estimated that 230,000 VCRs will be sold in the country this year, compared to 100, 000 DVD players and 36,000 DVD home theatre units.

Adaptec announced June 3 the availability of VideOh! DVD Media Center. Described as a comprehensive solution that enables consumers to convert a home PC into a media center, the company claims users can easily create, control and store digital content, including TV shows, home movies and photos. They can choose what to watch from a free online programming guide, record, pause, rewind and replay live TV as well as edit and burn shows to DVDs or video CDs via a PC. Consumers it seems are looking for new ways to improve their home entertainment experience.

The market for Philips’ semiconductors is about to recover from stagnation and move into double-digit growth, driven in part by DVD recorders. So says Theo Claasen, chief strategist at Philips Semiconductors, who believes new products will boost the $150 billion a year chip market. Philips has trailed the Franco-Italian STMicroelectronics in recent years and now aims to catch the next wave of hot products, including DVD recorders, flat-screen TVs and multimedia phones. Philips believes people will not just replace DVD players or settop boxes, but will look for entertainment hubs for the entire house. The prediction is the TV and DVD recorder will hook up to most entertainment devices in a home, from the hi-fi setup to digital cameras and MP3 players. Philips helped develop DVD, contributed many patents and produced millions of players – but missed out on DVD chips. It now claims a 35% market share in DVD recorder chips, a market expected to be more valuable than the chip market for DVD players in three years.

Pinnacle Systems has released a DVD copying product, InstantCopy, priced at $50. Users can copy and store most types of unencrypted video, audio, photo, and data to disk, according to the company. Like DVD X Copy Express, InstantCopy can copy movies onto a single DVD, but it works only with movies that don't have copyright controls in place. The new product copies anything – data, audio and games – but not copy-protected material. Pinnacle expects to release a free upgrade on August 1 that will enable Instant Copy users to remove selected video tracks.

Zoran’s advanced Vaddis DVD multimedia processor is powering the latest generation of Toshiba DVD-R and DVD-RAM hard disk drive recorders. Toshiba's new RD-X3 family of recorders allows consumers to store up to six hours of content on a single DVD-R or DVD-RAM disc. They can create DVD-Video format on DVD-R media, as well as DVD-VR format on DVD-RAM media. Data files stored in DVD-R and DVD-Video format can be played back on most DVD players. In addition to enabling cut, assemble, and edit capabilities, the RD-X3 recorder series provides authoring of multimedia content to a DVD disc.The 80 to 160-gigabyte hard disk drives in the new models deliver personal video recording (PVR) time-shifting capabilities that allow consumers to time shift and record live television programs or to record programs like traditional VCRs.

Ritek, the leading Taiwanese optical storage disc maker, expects to double its monthly DVD disc production to 20 million units by year-end. Two other key optical storage disc makers in Taiwan – CMC Magnetics and Prodisc – claim high capacity utilisation rates for their DVD disc production. The companies, currently selling 4x DVD discs at prices of $1.20-1.50, said demand for DVD discs has been surging over the past months. They expect a further increase as many optical storage drive makers are scheduled to launch new recordable DVD products later this year. It is possible that 4x DVD disc prices may go down after 8x discs and drives are introduced in the second half of this year, says Ritek.

Roxio’s Easy CD & DVD has been honoured by “PC World” with two 2003 World Class Awards. Company was accoladed for Best DVD Mastering Software and Best CD Mastering Software. Award winners were announced in the July 2003 issue.

Mobile phone maker Nokia said June 2 it signed a marketing deal with Warner Music International, a unit of AOL Time Warner, to provide music on the Nokia 3300 handset.

Spectra Systems and Singulus Technologies have agreed on the development and commercialisation of customised equipment for the application of MediaCoat, the coating that allows for the application of graphics, alphanumerics, and barcodes, etc. on the play side of optical discs. This unique technology, which is compatible with all pre-recorded optical media formats and industry specifications, including double-sided discs, unlocks the potential for disseminating targeted advertising messages that are certain to be noticed on the play-side of motion picture, music, and software discs. Under the terms of the agreement, Singulus will manufacture and sell MediaCoat equipment, and Spectra will sell its proprietary lacquer formulation and provide licensing opportunities to replicators.

Sony Corp introduced a new Playstation May 21 – the PSX – a potential profit-driver that incorporates a DVD recorder and satellite TV tuner as well as the game player. PS2 is expected to recoup its investment costs this year but analysts do not expect a new generation of Playstations until 2004, or even 2005. The PSX will launch in Japan this year and in Europe and the United States early next year as an all-in-one entertainment device for games, music and moving pictures. Earlier this month Sony unveiled the PSP hand-held game machine, to be launched in 2004.

Nexpak says its THINpak case is currently running on Sony Disc Manufacturing's automation lines. At half the thickness of a standard DVD case, the patented THINpak offers an alternative packaging design with full automation capabilities for disc replicators. SDM utilises advanced assembly, packaging and product transport systems to deliver high productivity. Nexpak’s polypropylene case offers studios and content providers the benefit of a rugged case that expands capacities and it is DVD-approved. For retailers, the THINpak saves space on retail shelves at half the thickness of an Amaray case.

Sonic Solutions announced June 30 that it is shipping Sonic PrimeTime ($79.99), the first DVD recording application designed exclusively for Windows XP Media Center Edition. Sonic PrimeTime intuitively builds on the Microsoft appliance making it easy to archive recorded television shows onto DVD discs. The recorded shows can then be played back on standard set-top DVD players and DVD-equipped PCs. Sonic PrimeTime features include: TV Show Browser, One-Click DVD Burning and Dolby Digital encoding.

Hitachi’s third generation DVD camcorders record directly onto a DVD disc and instantly access any scene on the disc. The new models are smaller and lighter than the previous models and are about the size of the traditional still camera. The DVD-RAM camcorders enable users to record or erase scenes on a disk up to 100,000 times. Discs can be played back on domestic DVD players, says Hitachi. The company also has an optional P-C editing software kit.

Gateway is preparing a first – a "connected" DVD player ($249). The new device, to be launched shortly, is designed to look and act like a regular DVD player but will also be able to access and play multimedia files stored on a PC. The player will work with Ethernet or 802.11b wireless home networks to fetch MP3 files or digital photos from one or more PCs in a home. It will enable people to find the files they want by displaying a graphical user interface on a television screen. Users will be able to navigate the interface using the DVD player's remote control.

In 2003, Taiwan-based optical storage drive makers are expected to ship between up to 2.4 million half-height recordable DVD drives, among which 30-50%, are expected to come from Lite-On IT. Lite-On IT expects to start shipping 4x half-height DVD+RW drives in July and is set to launch an 8x half-height DVD-Dual drive in the fourth quarter. Total monthly shipments of the company’s recordable DVD drives will grow to 200 -300,000 after the 8x DVD-Dual drive is launched at year-end, the company said.

Behavior Tech Computer of Taiwan is to start shipping 4x half-height DVD+RW and DVD-Dual drives in July and 8x DVD-Dual drives in October. With major clients in Europe, the US, and China, BTC expects to be shipping one million recordable DVD drives in 2003. About half of BTC’s recordable DVD drive shipments will be sold in relatively small volumes under various brands, 30% will be for OEM orders and the remainder will be own-brand products.

BenQ is currently producing a 4x half-height DVD+RW drive and expects to launch 8x half-height DVD+RW and DVD-Dual drives in the second half of this year, with volume production of the 8x DVD+RW drive expected to start in September. Total quarterly shipments of the company’s DVD+RW products are expected to reach up to 500,000 units in the third quarter on improved component supply, according to the company. BenQ’s DVD+RW and DVD-Dual drives adopt chip sets and pick-up heads provided by Philips, with which the Taiwanese company started a joint venture in late May.

"The G5 has been designed for dual processors," Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs has said about his new computer. "And its 1-Gbyte front-side bus for moving data between components of the machine is the fastest ever. It can transfer all the data on a DVD disk from processor to memory in less than a second." he claimed.

DVD software provider Intervideo Inc. says it plans to sell 2.3 million shares of common stock in its initial public offering, at prices between $11 and $13 per share. The company filed to go public in January.

With increasing shipments of MPEG4-enabled DVD players and recorders, mobile handsets and digital TV sets, the pattern of growth already experienced by the MPEG IC market in 2002 will continue, according to In-Stat/MDR. The high-tech market research firm reports that in 2002, the MPEG IC market reached over 180 million units and $1.3 billion in revenues. By 2007, In-Stat/MDR expects the MPEG Video IC market to reach 344 million units and $2.8 billion in revenue. For the fourth year in a row ST Microelectronics was the largest supplier of MPEG ICs, based on revenue, with 31%.

Taiwan-based U-Tech Media is to expand monthly DVD disc capacity from 10- to 13-million units in the autumn in anticipation of strong growth in global demand for pre-recorded DVD discs. Utilisation is expected to move to 100% in the peak third quarter. U-Tech Media has orders from Columbia Tri-Star Home Entertainment and Buena Vista Home Entertainment. It will be pitching for Warner business, currently handled by Infodisc Technology, whose contract expires in July. U-Tech Media claims it ranks with its partner Deluxe Global Media Services, at fourth in the world in pre-recorded DVD disc production capacity. Technicolor is first, accounting for 28% of industry production capacity, followed by Sony at 25% and WAMO at 13-14%s.