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News in Brief

SEVERAL major Blu-ray-backing studios including Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and Fox Home Entertainment, have teamed up to create a new consumer-focused content site called Hollywood in Hi-Def. The site’s mix of original content and links to news and reviews from other sites is focused on the Blu-ray format only and is edited by former Video Business magazine editor-in-chief Scott Hettrick.

ATMEL Corporation announced today the availability of the ATR0881 laser diode driver IC for use in combined HD-DVD/Blu-ray, DVD, and CD drives. The ATR0881 is housed in a 4 mm x 4 mm QFN24 package. This is the industry's smallest laser diode driver solution and is especially suited for small slim drives used in notebook computers as well as for half-height drives in desktop PCs and consumer DVD recorders.

ACCORDING to a survey reported BY the New York Times, very few people actually have and use DVD copying software. The survey reports that only 1.5% of computer users have DVD copying software, and of those 1.5%, 2/3rds of them don't even use it. The survey also revealed that users were more likely to download DVDs than copy DVDs that they borrowed or rented, and that about half of all downloaded DVDs are pornography. According to the survey's lead analyst, 'With music, part of the appeal is sharing your own playlists and compilations with your friends ... I'm not sure people share their porn the way they share their music.'

ZOOTECH announced that its DVD-EXTRA STUDIO will be used by Endless Games for the development of the 2nd Edition of their highly successful DVD game, The Price is Right, based on the longest-running game show in television history, a FremantleMedia property. This new edition will also provide more interactive game-play.

FIVE years after launching into CD and DVD manufarturing, Duplas Avelco has become Italy's first manufacturer of HD DVD media. The Gerenzano-based company installed replication lines from Singulus Technologies and quality control equipment from AudioDev.

PANASONIC has announced that they will be globally introducing Write-Once Blu-ray Discs (BD-R) with 4x writing speed. The new discs will be available in both 25GB and 50GB, and will be introduced in the market this July and September respectively. With the announcement of the launch of 4x BD drives, the new discs have the capability of 4x speed writing and reading, allowing users to handle large amounts of data or High Definition content with greater convenience. Panasonic is the first company to announce the market introduction of 4x BD-R Discs.

ACER Inc, Taiwan's leading personal computer vendor, has filed a counterclaim of patent infringement against Hewlett-Packard Development Co before the Eastern District of Texas Court in the United States. Acer claimed that HP has infringed its patents on dual-frequency antenna and DVD-ROM head technologies. The latest counterclaim is part of Acer's response to HP's patent infringement suit against the company filed at the same court earlier this year, Acer said in a statement.

UNEXPECTED booming sales of 18x and 20x half-height (H/H) DVD burners in Southeast Asian markets, including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, have resulted in supply shortages since June. As leading brands are making efforts to increase supply volumes, the shortages are expected to taper off beginning in August, according to industry sources in Taiwan. Brands for hot-selling 18x and 20x DVD burners include Pioneer, Liteon (made by Taiwan-based Lite-On IT), Sony and LG, the sources indicated. The increased demand was primarily attributed to continued falls in retail prices arising from decreasing OEM prices, the sources pointed out.

THE Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) announced recently that five movie thieves were arrested over the extended July Fourth holiday for illegally camcording Dreamworks/Paramount's Transformers in cinemas across the US. Increased security and surveillance for the summer blockbuster season led to the arrests of five suspects who used camcorders and cell phone cameras to record movies in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and New York.

SONIC Solutions has extended its relationship with Adobe Systems by licensing Sonic AuthorScript BD, the leading Blu-ray Disc authoring and burning engine, for use within a range of the company's applications. Adobe joins a growing list of top-tier technology companies including Microsoft, Samsung, Pioneer, and Broadcom. AuthorScript BD SDK provides application developers a cost-effective way to add rich, Blu-ray Disc authoring to their multimedia, video and audio applications, says Sonic. "Offering a comprehensive feature set, AuthorScript-enabled products allow video professionals and consumers alike to easily produce dramatic discs with advanced navigation systems, sophisticated behaviors, and stunning menu designs."

CLOSE to 500,000 DVD players manufactured in China over the last four years have been recalled due to the potential for fire and a subsequent meltdown. These players are sold under the Axion brand name and so far, 550 units have shorted out and overheated, producing thick smoke. A defect in the players LCD module is responsible. The cost of the recalled units could run as high as $114 million. Additionally, there are a number of other products that could be affected by the same defect; among them are Rossini, Audiovox and Insignia, including LCD TVs and LCD picture frames.

VERBATIM Corporation and its parent company Mitsubishi Kagaku Media (MKM) have announced the purchase of substantially all of the assets of SmartDisk Corporation's external hard drive and digital imaging business. The acquisition includes physical assets, patents, trademarks, technology, engineering and marketing expertise, but the purchase price has not been disclosed. According to Verbatim, by combining its worldwide brand strength and its new assets, it will offer an expanded line of optical, magnetic and flash products that meet the diverse storage needs of consumers and businesses around the globe.

STMICROELECTRONICS has announced that by the end of the first quarter of 2007 it had shipped a cumulative total of more than 400 million MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 decoder chips – used worldwide in settop boxes, digital television sets and DVD players – since entering the market with the world's first MPEG-2 System-on-Chip (SoC) decoder in 1995. In a sector growing rapidly in size, diversity and technical complexity, ST continues to be the leading supplier, year on year, shipping more than 63 million decoder ICs in 2006, which is approximately three times more devices than ST's nearest competitor in the STB market.

SONY has said that major US retailer, Target, will expand its inventory of Blu-ray discs and up its promotion of Blu-ray players through the holiday shopping season. The move begins in October with Target's sale and promotion of Sony's BDP-S300 unit, which sells for about $500. However reports that Target will be exclusive to Blu-ray are incorrect according to the retailer and HD DVD titles will continued to be offered.

MICROSOFT announceD it will lower the price of the Xbox 360 HD DVD Player from $199 to $179 ERP (in the US) from Aug. 1, 2007. In addition to the price drop, Microsoft is extending Toshiba's "Perfect Offer" of five free HD DVD discs to Xbox 360 consumers. Previously exclusive to Toshiba HD DVD Players, with the purchase of an Xbox 360 HD DVD Player at the new price of $179 ERP, consumers can choose five HD DVD titles for free from a selection of 15 popular titles through a mail-in offer.

MALAYSIA’s Anti-Corruption Agency arrested two officers from the Domestic Trade Ministry and two others from a private enforcement agency for allegedly accepting 50,000 ringgit ($14,700) from the operator of a pirated DVD factory in central Klang district for turning a blind eye, the New Straits Times newspaper reported. Malaysia is among the world's top illegal movie disc producers and exporters. According to the Malaysian government, 5 million discs were seized in more than 2,000 raids nationwide last year.

WARNER Home Video research claims that, while DVD sales overall are in a slight decline, sales of the high-end gift sets are up 7% for the year so far and expected to climb further because 72% of sales occur in the second half. Collector's sets are a half-billion dollar market, with revenue growing at a nearly double-digit pace.

ISSUED on 30 July 2007, the latest Sony CSR Report details highlights of Sony's engagement to maximise the energy efficiency of its products. As of February 2007, all Sony BRAVIA LCD televisions sold in Europe achieved a standby power consumption below 1 watt, while most models are below 0.3 watts, the study reported. All its DVD player products operate at under 0.1 watts in standby mode to reduce power consumption, while its latest Home Audio range features a standby power consumption of just 0.3 watts. In February 2007, Sony became the first consumer electronics and entertainment company to win the Sustainable Energy Europe Award from the European Commission.