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News in Brief

QUANTA STORAGE, currently Taiwan’s largest manufacturer of slim-type optical-disc drives (ODDs), will report record-low gross margins of 15% for the third quarter of this year, according to local institutional investors. Price-cutting strategies from ODD makers in South Korea and Japan, as well as increased production by Lite-On IT and BenQ were the main reasons Quanta Storage’s gross margins declined. However, gross margins are expected to rebound by 16-17% in the fourth quarter, when the company moves into production of more profitable slim-type 8x DVD burners and receives increased orders from its parent company Quanta Computer, the investors predicted.

STMICROELECTRONICS NV, Europe's biggest semiconductor maker, is to report the highest quarterly profit since 2002 as the French-Italian company benefited from increased demand for chips used in DVD players and mobile phones. Early word is net income will reach $157 million, compared with a loss of $49.1 million a year earlier, according to the median estimate of 12 analysts in a Bloomberg News survey. Sales rose 24 percent to $2.24 billion, the survey showed.

RUPERT GAVIN, the former chief executive of BBC Worldwide, has set up a company to bid for any of the BBC's commercial assets that may be put up for sale. The new venture, Kingdom Media, is seeking wholesale acquisition of any of the BBC's commercial assets, or a joint venture with the organisation.

JUPITER RESEARCH PREDICTS that the landscape of the US DVR market will change significantly between 2004 and 2009, as devices from cable and satellite providers gain market share from standalone DVRs. TiVo and ReplayTV have had the advantage of early entry into the field. While standalone models currently comprise 39% of the online household market, by 2009 they will account for only 20%, and cable/satellite DVRs will grow from 61% in 2004 to 80% of this market in 2009.

APPLE SAYS THAT 150 million songs have been downloaded from its iTunes online music store. The current pace of downloads is roughly 4 million songs per week, a significant acceleration. At launch, it took two weeks for Apple to sell 2 million songs.

KDDI, JAPAN'S SECOND BIGGEST phone outfit, plans to offer a service of 10,000 songs that can be downloaded to cellphones. The full-length, CD-quality songs are expected to have sound quality so good that the music can be listened to on stereo speakers. KDDI plans to allow users to download each tune for several hundred yen and eventually expand the database of songs.

DVD-RAM PROMOTIONAL GROUP executive director Tony Jasionowski, says that growth in RAM drives has increased 100% over the past 12 months. He claims there are twice as many RAM drives as any other type format in consumers’ hands. It seems, however, there are no plans to move DVD-RAM to blue-laser.

THE CONSUMER ELECTRONICS ASSOCIATION says 32 percent of American households now have home theater systems.

NUTECH DIGITAL has expanded its Platinum Concert Series with the launch of a new classical music division that kicks off with 20 DVDs including discs that feaure renowned conductors Zubin Mehta and Roderick Brydon.

SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS, the South Korean electronics giant, is to build a new research and distribution centre in Slovakia for goods destined for the European Union. The 20 million Euro centre in Galanta will running in two years and will employ 900 people. The state is said to be ready to give Samsung more than 3 million Euros' worth of subsidies. Samsung already has two factories in the town of Galanta, which manufacture laser printers, satellites, plasma screen televisions, DVD players and computer screens.

MICHAEL MOORE'S Fahrenheit 9/11 has sold roughly 2 million units on DVD and VHS on its day of release in the US. The controversial film is the most successful documentary ever released on home video. The title is expected to sell 3 million combined units in its first week of release.

LITE-ON IT ACHIEVED ITS goal of shipping a total of 1 million DVD burners and DVD recorders in September, according to the company’s optical-disc drive (ODD) business general manager Michael Gong. Lite-On IT is now competing with Hitachi-LG Data Storage for the top position in the market for DVD burners and DVD recorders. Lite-On IT expects to ship 1 million DVD burners per month in the fourth quarter.

ZOOTECH , the British DVD authoring technology developer and marketer, has set NMC Partners as its public relations agency of record serving North America. Founded in 1996, NMC Partners is a California-based full-service public relations agency.

WINDOWS MEDIA HIGH DEFINITION VIDEO, the recently approved video standard for HD-DVD and Blu-Ray Discs, was matched with Samsung’s new 46-inch high definition LCD TV in order to demonstrate 1080p HD Video for the first time in the Mid-East region. Microsoft showed off the technology at Dubai’s Gitex industry fair this year.

THE INTERIM BOARD OF DIRECTORS of the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) ended its term July 31,2002 without selecting a new embedded data (watermarking) copy protection technology. The new 12-member board, which began its term on August 1, will now consider what steps will be taken next in this process. All of the research and work done to date in the evaluation and selection process will be available for the new board's consideration.

GLOBAL SOURCES Market Intelligence Reports says mainland China manufacturers will export 73 million digital still cameras this year, up 50% from last year. China also exports 8 out of 10 DVD players shipped globally, and increasingly at better quality.

DIGITAL THEATER SYSTEMS Inc. (DTS) has two new audio software encoders aimed at audio professionals creating multi-channel soundtracks for DVD-Audio, DVD-Video and 5.1 CDs: the Pro Series 6.1 Surround Encoder, a standalone solution designed to work on Mac OS X and Windows-equipped computers, and the DTS Pro Series Network Encoder, which allows up to 99 users on Macs or Windows computers to encode audio using an Apple Xserve and Xserve RAID system.

RITEK HAS SUCCEEDED in developing advanced dyes for making DVD+R DL (single-sided, double-layer) discs. It is the second company to develop the dye after Japan-based Mitsubishi Chemical. Ritek’s DVD+R DL discs can be burned at 2.4x speed with high success rates and 4x speeds with limited success. The company is making efforts to develop more advanced 8x DVD+R DL discs. Currently, Ritek ships more than 100,000 DVD+R DL discs a month.

AN UPDATED VERSION of the CSS License and Procedural Specifications is available now. A downloadable copy can be had by completing the on-line inquiry form.

WITH SIX PRODUCTION LINES going into operation one after another, China's first DVD optical reading head production base with independent intellectual property rights has been completed in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province. The base is expected to produce 8 million optical reading heads annually in the first phase. China, as the largest DVD producer in the world, has been relying on import of optical reading heads, until now.

THE ADULT FILM INDUSTRY in America is planning to pep up Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's campaign by releasing The Porn for Kerry DVD. The pro-Kerry group is promoting the porn disc, which has porn stars portraying the likes of Jenna Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Ann Coulter, Al Franken, Tom Ridge and Lyndie England. According to the New York Post, all proceeds from the DVD, described as part political satire and part hardcore hot sex, will go to Kerry's campaign efforts.

PHILIPS ELECTRONICS, signaling a possible wider slowdown in the semiconductor industry, has become the latest company to say that its chip sales had begun to stall, at least temporarily. The company’s semiconductor division said third-quarter sales in dollars would not exceed this year's second-quarter result of 1.4 billion euros ($1.72 billion). Measured year to year, however, Philips forecast a 27% increase in third-quarter sales. Scott McGregor, president and chief executive of Philips's semiconductor division, recently announced his resignation was for personal reasons (not related to the more modest expectations in his division).

JOOSE TV HAS BEEN APPOINTED to create and produce and innovative DVD that will educate motorcycle riders about safer riding, offer advice and tips whilst presented in a modern, accessible and humorous format. Initially, the DVD will be issued with all new bikes purchased at franchised dealers. Further copies will be available from other sources including a specialist distribution company. Any money made by this company, who will be responsible for storing and despatch will be donated to BEN, the industry charity.

DAN BRAZIL HAS JOINED DMS as New Media Manager. With a strong background in film and DVD production, Dan brings his music industry experience of working with a wealth of chart-topping acts. His role at UK-based DMS will be to oversee several DVD and related multimedia projects.

SCREENSELECT AND VIDEOISLAND, UK online DVD rental services, have merged ahead of the expected autumn entrance to the British market of US-based DVD rental pioneer Netflix. The two firms, which are the country's largest DVD rental outfits, have signed agreements with other online services, including Tesco, Dixons and MSN, as retail partners through which consumers can order DVDs.

BENQ HAS BROUGHT OUT the $200 EW1621, its first external 16x DVD Dual burner, catering to end-users who seek top DVD writing speeds and increased capacity in a portable unit. The EW1621 can achieve write speeds of 16x for DVD+R/-R, 4x for DVD+RW/-RW, 2.4x for DVD+R DL (single-sided double-layer), 40x for CD-R and 24x for CD-RW as well as read speeds of 16x for DVD-ROM and 40x for CD-ROM. The model is designed for use in both laptop and desktop PCs.

SONY HAS JUST RELEASED two new DVD camcorders – the DCR-DVD101 and DCR-DVD201 Handycams – that weigh just over a pound and can literally fit into a jacket pocket. The cams will record on 3-inch DVD-R and DVD-RW media storing around 1.4GB of footage.