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News in Brief

TOSHIBA Samsung Storage Technology (TSST) Korea has completed the technical development of its much-awaited Blu-ray Disc drives. Drawing upon the enhanced design of Samsung's external DVD writer, the Blu-ray drive supports Firmware Live Updates that allow users to ensure that they always have the latest Blu-ray firmware version. Samsung Electronics, a member of the Blu-ray Disc Association, will simultaneously launch internal and external Blu-ray disc drives in 2006

KAGAN Research estimates that 2005 international motion picture revenue streams will total $25.4 billion compared to $24.9 billion for combined domestic movie distribution markets. Slowing growth rates in domestic box office and home video markets in 2005 will continue to flatten in the coming years. In contrast, international movie markets are going to become larger revenue sources for motion picture distributors with emerging entertainment technologies contributing to increased penetration. By 2014, Kagan projects global movie markets will reach $38.2 billion with international home video constituting the largest portion of that revenue stream at $17.7 billion Overall, Kagan’s 10-year projections point to total movie distribution revenues (international and domestic combined) reaching $73 billion in 2014.

RITEK and CMC Magnetics, the top two makers of optical discs in Taiwan, indicated at CES that they are planning to start volume production of Blu-ray and HD DVD discs next quarter at the earliest. Available to coincide with Toshiba’s launch of HD-DVD players in the US and Japan markets, the production of HD-DVD discs will come earlier than BD discs.

THE digital home industry came of age in 2005, as global revenues surged past the $100bn (€83bn) mark for the first time, according to research from market research firm Strategy Analytics' Connected Home Devices service. Products such as digital flat panel TVs, MP3 players and portable games consoles helped drive retail revenues to $118bn (€98bn), a yaer-on-year growth rate of 25 per cent. The year 2006 is expected to be another record year, according to the study, with revenues forecast to exceed $150bn (€124bn). Hot growth sectors in 2006 will include entertainment PCs, next generation games consoles such as Xbox 360 and PS3, and new HD-DVD and Blu-ray disc players.

PHILIPS BenQ Digital Storage, a joint venture between BenQ and Royal Philips Electronics, has obtained OEM orders for DVD-ROM drive modules to be used in Microsoft’s Xbox 360 with shipments to begin this month, according to industry sources. Hitachi LG Data Storage was the sole OEM maker of DVD-ROM drive modules for Xbox 360 consoles currently sold thus far. BenQ used to indirectly secure OEM orders for DVD-ROM drive modules that went into earlier Xbox models, the sources noted. Given that OEM prices of DVD-ROM drive modules in previous Xbox models were higher than those for PC-use drives, which currently stand at $22-25, Philips BenQ Digital Storage’ OEM prices this time are estimated to be $28-30.

ROYAL Philips Electronics NV, Europe‘s largest consumer-electronics maker, said it plans to legally separate its semiconductor division in a step seen as a prelude to a merger or sale. For nearly a decade, analysts have debated whether the business would have more value as a stand-alone company, or as an in-house supplier for Philips, which uses computer chips in an array of products ranging from household appliances to DVD players to industrial medical equipment. Semiconductors Chief Executive Frans van Houten predicted that the coming five years will see a wave of consolidation in the semiconductor industry.

SEVERAL industry sources recently told EE Times that Microsoft is muscling into the optical-disk fray by leveraging its operating-system clout to bundle HD-DVD within Vista, the company's next-generation OS. There is also talk that the software giant may be planning to offer cash incentives – in the form "coupons" – to system vendors or retailers if they agree to support HD-DVD. Such coupons would provide "credits" or "memos" for each PC that is sold with HD-DVD inside.

THE MOD chip of Microsoft Xbox 360 is likely to be released within weeks. A member of a hacker group disclosed to press that they will finish the first mod chip of Xbox360 in a couple of weeks. Information from another hacker group says pirate games for Xbox360 will be on sale in February or March in 2006. Reacting to the escalation of IP aggression against Xbox 360, Microsoft released a statement reading, ?We have made improvements on both the hardware and software side to protect Xbox 360 against piracy and modding. With Xbox 360, we had the benefit of learning from our experiences on Xbox. This allowed us to identify points of weakness that were exploited by hackers in the first generation and to eliminate those vulnerabilities in Xbox 360."

THOMSON, the French media service group, which has been moving away from consumer electronics into image services to the media and communications industries for several years, is seeking a buyer for its consumer electronics businesses which makes MP3 devices, CD players and remote controls among other devices. Althought the business generates some €700m ($838m) in annual sales, some industry analysts feel management has been pushed into the decision due to the decline in the market. The group says the sales and revenue targets for 2006 set as part of its restructuring plan would not be affected but, back in October, poor trading in systems and equipment forced Thomson to cut its 2005 expectations.

TOSHIBA is soon to release the "SD-P2800," a portable DVD player with a 9-inch liquid-crystal display. The device is the first in the world to offer 4-type card slots (for SD card, MMC, MS and XD) and also features built-in TV/CATV/FM tuners, a variety of playable media and a 270-minute battery pack. A survey on this product among 300 Internet users aged between 15 and 49 revealed high ratings for "built-in TV/CATV/FM tuners", "maker" and "4-type card slots", although those respondents expressing purchase intention of "70% or over" accounted for less than 10% of the total.

PARAMOUNT Pictures has struck a deal to acquire DreamWorks SKG in a deal worth $1.5-$1.6 billion beating out rival suitor NBC Universal. Paramount is putting up about half the purchase price with several financial partners shouldering the rest, sources said. It wasn't immediately clear who the other investors are or if the financing details were all in place yet.

SALES of Blu-ray discs are expected to get their most significant start via Sony’s next generation Playstation 3 console. Available next year, the games machine will feature a Blu-ray drive fitted as standard. Early dedicated Blu-ray disc players are expected to retail for around $2,000, but with the cost of a PS3 console coming in much lower at between $300-$400 dollars, analysts at Japanese firm Fuji Economics are predicting that the Blu-ray format will outsell Toshiba’s rival HD DVD format by the year 2010.