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News in Brief

PHILIPS has announced it will reduce the royalty rate for compliant licensees in the CD Rewritable discs license program by 44%. The new fee will be set at $0.025 per disc, $0.02 lower than the current rate. The reduction is available to licensees who comply with the terms and conditions of their license with Philips and will initially be valid from the 4th quarter of 2007. The reduction will part of the Philips' Veeza licensing system for CD Rewritable discs.

DVD sales were not a contributing factor in the US to retail giant Wal-Mart’s reported net sales growth of 8.8% in the third quarter of this year. “Like others in the industry, we are seeing a slow down in sales of music and DVD,” said Eduardo Castro-Wright, EVP, President and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Division. “Wal-Mart is finding sales growth for its electronics division in TVs, sat-nav units, digital cameras, video games and computers.” He added that sales of flat panel TVs were up 110% in the third quarter over last year and laptop computers were up more than 80%.

SAMSUNG looks ready to make good on its plan to release a dual-format Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD player in time for the year-end holidays. The company, which has been a strong backer of the Blu-ray Disc format, said that its BD-UP5000 player would launch in mid-December. The machine was first announced in April, when Samsung said it would be available in North America and Europe by the end of the year. There's no official word yet on the price of the machine, but a handful of online stores are taking preorders, with prices ranging from $780 at to $1,100 at

HARRY Potter And The Order Of the Phoenix HD DVD disc will feature a Live Community Screening allowing viewers to “gather their own army of fellow wizards for a live community screening party”. It offers the opportunity to “invite other owners of the 'Harry Potter And The Order Of the Phoenix’ HD DVD to simultaneously watch from their own internet-accessed players.” The “host” of the event can pause and control how the movie is viewed, and there is also a facility for a “live chat”.

SAMSUNG has introduced a new optical disc drive, the TruDirect SE-S204S, which allows consumers to create DVDs and burn digital content through a PC without the need for a hard drive. With camcorder and digital camera sales skyrocketing, predicted to be nearly 100 million units sold in 2008, says the company, consumers can now conveniently create DVDs in record time. Similar to VCR recording, users can connect a digital device such as a camcorder, digital camera or Web cam to their PC or notebook, and then connect the drive to the computer to burn DVD movies directly.

VERBATIM has announced the availability in the Middle East of its complete range of optical media from CD-R through to BD and HD DVD, with global transportation and logistics company, APL as its local logistics partner. "Verbatim has experienced worldwide success, having attained a leadership position in the world's market for the recordable CD-R and DVD-R," says Ziad Arab, Verbatim sales manager Middle East. Since 1969, Arab adds, Verbatim has played major part in the development of data storage technology, from floppy disks and magneto-optical storage media to the latest formats.

NEW Medium Enterprises, provider of the affordable, high-quality HD VMD (Versatile Multilayer Disc) format, announced its sale of 10,000 Multilayer Players for Central Europe to FKH Electronic, who will be distributing its 1080p HD VMD Multilayer Players to retail outlets in Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia. This initial order is valued at US$1.3 million. The order will complement the HD VMD film content currently available in Central Europe.

WAL-MART has started selling Venturer Electronics' new HD DVD player for $199.98 online and at selected stores. Venturer is based in Ontario, Canada, but has a manufacturing partner in China. The launch of the player is somewhat anti-climatic with entry-level Toshiba players now available at some stores for under $200. The Venturer SHD7000 features 1080i output with a HDMI connection and an Ethernet port for downloads of special features. The lowest-priced Blu-ray player is now Sony's BDP-S300 at $499 suggested retail, although Wal-Mart is now selling it for $348.

ANWELL has announced that CD Video of California is to purchase both BD and HD DVD production systems – an order that was placed after Anwell demonstrated its new BD50 production system, which will be launched officially early next year. Minh Nguyen, the owner of CD Video, states that he is proud to become the first US independent replication facility to offer both HD and BD formats to its customers. "In order to keep up with the market demand and technology, we need to be an early adaptor of both formats. I see Anwell and its North American agent TS&S as the ideal partner for CD Video."

AT the IT Month expo in Taipei (December 1-9), Toshiba will launch its IDE-interface HD DVD-ROM drive, the SD-H802A, and Sony will release its new SATA-interface BD burner, the BWU-200S. The SD-H802A supports read speeds of 2.4x for HD DVD single-sided single layer or double layer (SL or DL), 5x for DVD+R/-R SL or DL, DVD+RW/-RW, DVD-ROM SL or DL, 15x for CD-R, CD-ROM and CD-RW, according to specifications from Toshiba. The HD DVD-ROM drive will sell at NT$5,990 (US$185) along with a free HD DVD movie disc, Toshiba Electronics Taiwan pointed out. The Sony BWU-200S will be priced at NT$17,500 (US$541), much lower than NT$29,900 for Sony's current BWU-100A model, the sources indicated.

TMPG, Inc. is introducing an updated version of its popular TMPGEnc DVD Author 3 with DivX Authoring software. The update provides optimization of the DVD authoring program for the Intel Core 2 Extreme quad-core processor QX9650 and the Intel Xeon 5400 Family of quad core Intel CPU’s (code name Penryn). SSE4 optimization provides a speed increase for all MPEG-1/2 processes. TMPGEnc will be giving away a "free gift" to all new and existing TMPGEnc DVD Author 3 users. This promotion ends December 27th.

BY receiving certification for BD-Video Profile 1.1, WinDVD has passed the stringent standards and guidelines set by the Blu-ray Disc Association to ensure the best possible user experience. With BD-Video Profile 1.1 support, WinDVD users can now use picture-in-picture functionality to playback a smaller high-definition video in the corner of their screen while watching the high-definition movie on the background main screen. For example, with this enhanced functionality, movie fans can now watch the director's commentary as an overlay to the action on screen. WinDVD with BD-Video Profile 1.1 support will be available beginning in early 2008.

US firm Clearplayhas launched a content-filtering DVD player which can automatically remove 'objectionable' scenes from movies. Parents can edit out content such as profanity, violence, sex and nudity during DVD playback by loading updatable, movie filters into the player via a USB stick.

FRENCH optical disc manufacturer QOL, Europe's first independent replicator to install HD DVD pressing lines, is also now the first French company to have a fully operational Blu-ray Disc replication line. It was awarded the 'Notice of Verification Test Result for First Production Model' certificate from the Blu-ray Disc Association for the BD-ROM Movie Media category.

MICROSOFT has slashed once again the price of its add-on HD DVD player for Xbox 360 by 30 percent to $129. Originally selling for $199, the unit had already been reduced to $179 earlier in the year. With the add-on, buyers will receive a media remote. In addition, King Kong is included, and the player is eligible for the currently running five free HD DVD promotion from Toshiba.

MULTIMEDIA PC base station Medion MD8828, now available from Aldi stores, offers a machine based on Intel VIIV technology and featuring a multi-format, high definition HD DVD and Blu-ray optical drive, an Intel 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E6750 processor, NVIDIA GeForce 8600GS DirectX 10 graphics card with DVI-I connector and HDMI port, 2GB of RAM, 500GB of SATA hard disk space, Medion’s triple TV tuner ( DVB-T, DVB-S Satellite and analogue TV), and Wi-Fi. Bundled with a software package that includes Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium edition, it is priced at £629.99.

WALT DISNEY’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End has sold about 8 million copies in North America during its first week on sale, running neck-and-neck with Paramount’s Transformers as the top fourth-quarter title in 2007 that sold a little more than 8 million units in its first street week. Also, an estimated 160,000 Pirates Blu-ray copies were sold. Sony Pictures Spider-Man 3 , its best Blu-ray seller to date, sold 130,000 copies sold over its first six days on sale.

LOW-COST SHD7001 High Definition DVD player from Venturer is now supplied with a bundled package worth around £50.00. In addition to the two free HD DVD titles coming with the machine –Hulk and Troy – the deal now includes a voucher that enables customers to redeem (until 31 January) five more free HD DVDs courtesy of the European HD DVD Promotional Group. The player will initially be available to buy in the UK exclusively from QVC TV Home Shopping Channel from the 29th December when its price will be disclosed.

SOME $330 million in video game systems (including Wii, Playstation and Xbox) sales took place on in 2006, generated from more than 1.3 million new and used units, according to consumer research firm Packaged Facts.

THE transistor, the ubiquitous building block of all electronic circuits, was 60 years old on Sunday. The device is jointly credited to William Shockley (1910-1989), John Bardeen (1908-1991) and Walter Brattain (1902-1987), and it was Bardeen and Brattain who made the first working point-contact transistor on 16 December 1947. The name wasn't coined until the following year. Bell Labs employee John R Pierce (1910-2002) thought up the moniker, and in May 1948 his colleagues, who'd been presented with a list of suggestions, opted for his.

FASTMAC has launched a 4x dual layer Blu-ray drive burner for Apple Mac Pro and PowerMac G5 which can write 50 GB of data to a disc at speeds of more than 1 GB/minute using a SATA connection. The drive is also compatible with standard DVD and CD recording and rewritable media. The drive is avilable at a special introductory price of $579.95.