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News in Brief

CONSUMER electronics chain Best Buy announced it will offer a $50 gift card to customers who purchased an HD DVD player from any Best Buy store. The gift card, which can be spent on any item in the store, is part of a growing industry effort to appease HD DVD owners. The New York Times reports that the Best Buy gift cards will be mailed automatically to customers who purchased HD DVD players by February 23 through rewards programs, the company's web site or those who purchased extended warranties. All others must show proof of purchase to get the card. The card will not include an expiration date.

SALES on for Samsung's Blu-ray and Blu-ray/HD DVD combo players increased last week on format growth and price cuts on high-definition players. Both sales of the company’s BD-UP5000 HD DVD/Blu-ray disc combo player and the BD-P1400 1080p Blu-ray disc player increased nearly 120%. The price of the dual-format combo player was cut to $449.99 from a $599.99 MSRP. The BD-P1400 was reduced to $399.99 from $499.99.

ACER recently announced the "Gemstone Blue" series of Aspire laptops featuring Blu-ray drives. Acer Taiwan President Scott Lin now reveals that the company is planning to ship 22 million laptops in the year 2008. No less than 10% of these would have a Blu-ray drive inside it. Acer expects to ship 40,000 18.4-inch BD notebooks and 70,000 16-inch BD notebooks this month.

HITACHI Maxell is to stop selling its recently-announced series of 2x HD DVD-R/RW media, according to a recent company announcement. Hitachi Maxell's HD DVD-R and HD DVD-RW support the 2x burning speed and were initially scheduled to be available in Japan last February in both variations for data and video. However, Toshiba's decision to stop the development and promotion of HD DVD changed Hitachi Maxell' s plans.

THE Hollywood Reporter writes today that Lionsgate Entertainment is now making $15 in profit for every sale of an older Blu-ray disc title – and $21 for new releases like War. Blu-ray discs are priced higher than standard-def DVDs, enabling the studios to generate more in profits. Some new titles cost around $30 at retail, compared to half that for the standard-def DVD release.

BLU-RAY Region Coding reminder. Region A (North America, Central America, South America, Korea, Japan, South East Asia); Region B (Europe, Middle East, Africa, Australia, New Zealand); Region C (Russia, India, China, Rest of World). Use of region codes is at the publisher’s discretion. For those titles which do incorporate region coding, it would appear there is a requirement that any re-replication of a title more than twelve months after its initial replication has to remove region coding (unless the content is updated).

TOSHIBA original equipment manufacturer and EMS Group's Dongguang subsidiary Electrical Mechaset Systems ceased production of HD DVD modules on 26 March, reports Southern Metropolitan News. According to an unnamed insider, the company handed out a total of RMB7 million ($1m) in compensation, about RMB5,000 ($712) per employee, due to the closure. Electrical Mechaset Systems will shut down permanently on 30 June if it fails to secure orders.

OPTICAL disk drive manufacturers, Philips & Lite-On Digital Solutions (PLDS) USA, are teaming up to position themselves as the industry’s leading manufacturer of Blu-Ray writers and readers (BD-ROM). In 2006, Lite-On IT assumed ownership of a joint venture between BenQ and Royal Philips Electronics and renamed the company Philips & Lite-On Digital Solutions. As Philips is a charter member of the BD Association, the new partnership gave Lite-On access and ownership to numerous patents which allowed the company to begin R&D and ultimately production of its current line of BD products.

AVID Technology announced the next generation of its Pinnacle PCTV HD Stick, and Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick. The last product already is the best selling TV tuner for PCs in the United States, according to NDP research. With the size of a flash drive the new Pinnacle PCTV HD sticks provide users with resolutions of up to 1080i. At only $99 the new PCTV HD Pro stick can provide you with HD-quality TV and can be used as a Personal Video Recorder (PVR).

DTS-HD Master Audio is now available for the PlayStation 3 games console. The technology is capable of delivering audio that is bit-for-bit identical to the studio master at super high variable bit rates (up to 24.5 Mbps on Blu-ray Discs). Thie transfer rate can deliver 7.1 audio channel, 96k/24-bit sound identical to the original studio master. DTS’ single-bit-stream codec design enables highly efficient content programming and consumer playback. PS3 can be upgradable to decode DTS-HD Master Audio by downloading the upcoming firmware upgrade on 15 April 2008.

AGI Polymatrix, part of Meadwestvaco, announced that its plastic DVD packaging facilities received a certificate of compliance from the Content Delivery and Storage Association (CDSA). The CDSA’s voluntary certification, called the Plastic DVD Standard Packaging Program, requires manufacturers to submit finished plastic DVD packaging samples from their facilities for independent testing of hazardous materials. Compliance with the program ensures that the products comply with the limits for hazardous materials as set forth in the CDSA Standard.

NOTWITHSTANDING, the termination of the HD DVD format, Microsoft has enhanced its HD DVD code in the Xbox 360. Daily Tech reports that, as part of its ongoing HD-DVD support the engineers at Microsoft have released updated HD-DVD code for the game console. For Xbox Live users the update downloading is prompted by the box playing an HD-DVD movie. Others will be able to download it from Microsift later this week. The update resolves playback problems with certain titles and increases support for network features. This depends upon movie studios supporting an infrastructure for web-enabled titles such as Transformers from Paramount.

MOVIE titles 6th Day and Walk Hard are the first Blu-ray titles that feature BD-Live, now available from With BD-Live (Blu-ray Profile 2.0) users get additional online content from within the Blu-ray disc menu. Though they also get PIP, the online connection bears the most potential to enhance the experience of Blu-ray movie discs over DVDs.

SAMSUNG is to introduce a Blu-ray/HD DVD combo drive in September and the burner will be available in the first quarter of 2009. With earlier versions not being a success Samsung now hopes to introduce a best seller. Samsung is a Blu-ray supporter and HD DVD patent owner. No word on the drive's price, but other Samsung drives started at $500, so this one is expected to be cheaper.

FRANCE’s Carrefour Group, the world’s No. 2 retailer behind Wal-Mart, is to enter the movie download business, launching a new service in its four key European territories of France, Spain, Belgium and Italy. Announcing the initiative at the recent PEVE Conference, Carrefour’s international non-food chief Christophe Geoffroy said the site would offer both download-to-own and download-to-rent movies and television programs.

BY 2012, digital music sales will represent 40% of all music purchased worldwide, according to In-Stat. In-Stat agrees with NPD that digital sales of music represented 10% of the total worldwide music market in 2007, which was up 4% from 2006. In-Stat says that factors contributing to this growth include the global expansion of broadband, continued demand for single-track downloads, and expanding music catalogues.

BLU-RAY disc sales jumped 351 percent in the first three months of this year, according to Home Media Magazine research. Home Media reports that the rise in Blu-ray sales led to the first increase in consumer spending on home video in two years. In 2007, total sales fell 0.5 percent and they decreased 0.4 percent in 2006. But the publication writes that consumer spending was up one percent in the first three months of 2008, totaling $5.51 billion, compared to the first three months of 2007. Sales rose 2.3 percent while rental spending fell 1.6 percent.

SAMSUNG Electronics Co., Ltd. today announced its latest additions to the product lineup: a fourth-generation Blu-ray player and a second-generation Blu-ray home theater. Samsung introduced the world's first Blu-ray player in June 2006. Last December it unveiled the first-ever home theater-in-a-box that includes a Blu-ray player. Dongsoo Jun, chief of Digital AV Business Division at Samsung Electronics, said he expects the overall Blu-ray market to achieve average annual growth of at least 80% through 2012, with 51 million units sold a year by that time. A conservative estimate for 2008 would be 5 million units sold, or three times the number for last year, he added.

MPEG LA has filed an enforcement action in a New York Federal District Court against retail chain Target Corporation and Doe Corporations 1-10 for infringing patents essential to the MPEG-2 digital video compression standard. According to the complaint, Target offers in its retail stores a variety of products under its Trutech house brand name, such as digital televisions and DVD players, that use patent protected MPEG-2 methods without having entered into licences with the individual patent holders or a portfolio licence that includes these patents offered by MPEG LA.