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News in Brief - february 2004


The DaTarius Group has relocated of its UK office from Monmouth in Wales to Mitcheldean in Gloucestershire, England. The company says its needed larger premises and better location. Currently the base for group CEO James Steynor, the new location will also serve as an office for the group’s Chief Financial Officer, Mark Ridout. Andy Hughes, UK Sales Manager, has broadened his territory, taking over responsibility for Scandinavia (excluding Denmark) and will base in the Mitcheldean offices.

Jeanette Sølling has been appointed sales and marketing director at Scanavo A/S, the Danish replicator and packager, and Jan Rye Petersen becomes finance director in an executive shuffle which has seen Tino Sølling withdraw from daily responsibility to undertake a more strategic role for the group.

Toby Mitchell has joined Sonopress UK as Audio Sales Executive. He reports to Anthony Daly and will concentrate on the indie and dance sector. Mitchell has just returned from the US where he has been working on the East and West Coasts for the last two years. Previously, he was a production manager at Ministry of Sound for two years and has been an account manager at Disctronics.

Starting in February 2004, Opto-Electronics & Systems Laboratories a unit of Taiwan’s government-backed Industrial Technology Research Institute is to joint venture with local companies in the manufacture pick-up heads for DVD recorders.

LG Electronics took top honours among consumer electronics manufacturers when it received 17 CES 2004 Innovations awards at the 2004 International Consumer Electronics Show. LG meantime is developing its next-generation DVD recorder – based on audio and video chipsets and software from Cirrus Logic. LG expects to begin volume production of its new DVD +/- RW dual recorder model, the 5810-MJC, in June 2004.

CyberLink, a developer of digital video software and training solutions, has launched PowerProducer 2 Gold that provides comprehensive support for multiple video formats including DVD+/-VR and DVD-Video, as well as output formats such as DivX, VCD, SVCD and DVD, and multiple disc formats including DVD-RAM, CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW. Targeted at consumers, PowerProducer 2 Gold features an interface for producing movies and photos on DVDs and CDs. It supports all major disc formats, allows detailed chapter creation, and expanded Right-to-Disc recording technology.

Leadtek Research has combined the revolutionary technology of eMagin's power efficient and high speed OLED microdisplays with Leadtek's innovative design knowledge and optics to create the X-eye, a portable and easy to use 3D stereovision capable of high resolution imaging on headmounted displays for PCs and video. First showings of both monocular and binocular models will be featured at the International Consumer Electronics Show.

Toshiba unveiled at the Las Vegas (Jan 9-11) CES a 0.85-inch hard disk drive, the first hard drive that can deliver multi-gigabyte data storage to a sub-one-inch form factor. With the new drive only a quarter the size of a 1.8-inch drive, Toshiba has a smaller, lighter, high capacity storage medium using low power consumption and delivering high performance. It is expected to open new markets for the Japaness OEM. (See Product Launches).

BBC television’s December 2003 book-promoting series, The Big Read, not only spurred the sale of books voted into the 10 top tomes by viewers, it also sparked DVD sales of the same titles. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice which ranked second to J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings saw a 73% jump in book sales over the period — and a 977 percent rise in DVD sales of a television series based on the book, according to data from Amazon.com. Of the five novels on that short list, DVD sales rose 1,500%, more than three times the increase in book sales.

Optical storage chip suppliers in Taiwan expect to have taken about 40% of the global PC-use optical storage chip market in 2003, and 75.5% of the global consumer-use DVD player market, according to sources.

The Zoran Corporation is putting out its seventh generation Vaddis 7, an advanced DVD multimedia processor system-on-a-chip solution, which integrates the servo front end, MPEG-4, DivX, DVD-Audio and many other advanced features into a complete DVD solution. Sample quantities are now shipping to major DVD player manufacturers.

At a new year commemoration party in Tokyo, Sony announced that it has taken the market lead in the DVD recorder market. Due to favourable sales of the company's Sugo-roku recorder and the PS2-compatible PSX recorder, Sony's share reached 35%. This pushed the company over previous market leader Matsushita, which sells its recorders under the Panasonic brand. Sony Computer Entertainment chief Ken Kutaragi says the company sold 100,000 units of the PSX in just its first week. Sony revealed late last year its intention to ship a million PSX units to the market by the end of 2004.

Apple introduced Final Cut Express 2 at Macworld Expo. Based on Final Cut Pro 4, the new version is the next grade up for iMovie fans and has been optimized for Panther. It features RT Extreme for real-time compositing and effects, an enhanced user interface, real-time colour-correction tools and enhanced audio editing capabilities.

In a European first, French publisher MK2 Editions will send members of the Académie des arts et des techniques du cinéma – who are choosing the Césars 2004 film awards – screeners on DVD self-destruct Flexplay system. Technicolor has manufactured the 3,300 special DVDs of the film Elephan, directed by Gus Van Sant, Palme d’Or in the last Cannes Film Festival. The Cesars 2004 will take place on 21 February.

Netflix, an online DVD rental service that delivers movies through the mail, announced that it ended the year 2003 with a total of 1,487,000 subscribers, an increase of 74% over its total at the end of 2002. The figure also represents a 15% increase over the number of subscribers reported at the end of the third quarter of 2003. In December, Netflix revised its 2003 subscriber projection upwards, saying it expected to count between 1.47 million and 1.495 million subscribers by the end of the year.

The Dutch Supreme Court ruled December 19 that the makers of Kazaa, the computer file-sharing programme, cannot be held liable for copyright infringement of music or movies swapped with its free software. The decision upheld a 2002 appellate court ruling here that dismissed a suit filed by Buma/Stemra, a Dutch royalty collecting agency and a copyright group, which was demanding that Kazaa stop offering free downloads from its Web site or face a daily fine of $124,000. In the United States, a federal judge has already dismissed the lawsuits filed by the entertainment industry against two rival file-sharing services, Grokster and StreamCast Networks, saying that they could not be held liable for what their users do with the software. That ruling has been appealed, with a decision expected in February. A parallel case against Kazaa's parent company, Sharman Networks, is pending in Federal District Court in Los Angeles.

In the New Year, CyberLink will offer a new edition of PowerCinema integrated with UPnP (universal plug and play. PowerCinema software brings entertainment applications together on PCs to create an all-in-one home entertainment centre. The new edition will be delivered to hardware makers on OEM basis. Sales through retail channels will be considered. CyberLink, Taiwan’s leading producer of digital entertainment and online training software, began offering CyberLink DVD Solution (CDS) for international manufacturers of DVD drives/ recorders in October. CDS combines five to six different software products for creativity in movie, video, photo and music. PowerDVD, a DVD software player, is CyberLink’s main product line, accounting for over 80% of the company’s total sales, and holds a 60% market share in Europe, 50% in the US and 70% in Taiwan.

In 2003, sales of DVD devices are projected to surpass those of VHS recorders and shipments of flat panel TV sets are poised to pass those of cathode ray tube displays. The Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association (JEITA) says shipments between January and November 2003 of 10-inch or larger LCD TV sets soared 90% over the year-ago period. Sales of plasma display panels (PDP) rose about 25%. Domestic shipments of DVD players from January through October stood at 1.14 million units, tripling the figure for the same period last year. The annual total for 2001 and 2002 stood at 130,000 units and 620,000 units, respectively. GfK Marketing Services Japan Ltd. estimates the ratio of sales of DVD equipment to videocassette recorders at 75 to 25 in April through November of this year.

Self-destructing DVD discs are to be sent by the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinema to people qualified to vote in France’s Cesar Awards. The move follows the protracted row in the US over the use of preview discs, which the copyright owners say provides an open door to piracy. Nominations for the Cesar awards will be announced in late January. The ceremony is set for February 21. Meantime, independent filmmakers in the US won a temporary court order earlier stopping major film studios from enforcing a ban on videos being sent to awards judges.

As global demand for DVD burners has grown faster than for combo drives, some of Taiwan's optical disc drive manufacturers, faced with an increase in orders from OEMs for DVD burners, are expected to reallocate space to burners and to decrease production of combo drives. The OEM price level of combo drives has dropped from $70-80 per unit in the first quarter of this year to $40-45. OEM prices of DVD burners have slipped from $170-180 to about $100 in the same period. In the China market, combo drives will remain the mainstream for a while because the price level of DVD burners is up to 1.5 times that of combo drives.

Eastern Asia Technology of Singapore expects to ship between 400-500,000 DVD recorders in 2004, up from 150,000 in 2003. The company is a major producer of DVD recorders and supplies Philips, Sony and Sharp, among others. Eastech also claims to be the world’s largest OEM maker of DVD home-theater-in-a-box systems and expects shipments of this product to grow 20% in 2004, up from 1.5 million units produced this year. The company will also increase production of DVD players next year in anticipation of global demand rising to 70 million units from 50 million this year. Eastech recently began OEM production of 20-inch LCD displays and will expand to manufacturing larger-size models in 2004.

The Taiwan-based Electronics Research & Service Organization has developed an ultra-thin active matrix display that is 0.2mm thick, Jyuo-Min Shyu, ERSO executive vice president and general director said at a press conference in Hsinchu, Taiwan. The display weighs one-quarter less than other panels of the same size, he added. Matsushita Electric Industrial, Toshiba and Seiko Epson offer similar products, with panels that are respectively 0.3, 0.2 and 0.1mm thick.