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News in Brief

MAXELL Corporation of America has introduced four new DVD Camcorder media products. They include DVD-R DS and DVD-RW DS double-sided discs, DVD-R DL dual layer discs and DVD+R DL double layer discs. The new DVD-R DS double-sided disc is write-once media designed for one-time recording in all DVD-R camcorders, computer drives and video recorders and will play back on compatible DVD recorder/players and DVD-ROM drives. With a total capacity of 2.8 GB (1.4 GB per side), the DVD-R DS disc provides 60 minutes of recording time (30 minutes per side). The new DVD-RW DS provides the same specifications in a rewritable format. The DVD-R DL single-sided dual layer discs provide 54 minutes of recording and playback time from a capacity of 2.6 GB with no need to flip the disc.

DVD rentals in US rose strongly from 2005's $6.5 billion to $7.5 billion, while DVD sales inched up from $16.3 billion in 2005 to $16.6 billion last year, according to the Digital Entertainment Group. Overall, $24.2 billion was spent on DVD and VHS, lower than in 2004 ($24.5 billion) and 2005 ($24.3 billion). VHS accounted for just $100 million in spending last year; as recently as 2004. Since DVD arrived in 1997, more than 200 million players have been purchased in the USA, and about 88 million homes have at least one. Last year, consumers bought 33 million DVD players.

SILICON Optix, the leader in programmable video processors, announced that the Reon-VX HQV video processor will be featured in Samsung’s BD-P1200 Blu-ray player. The player will be available in March 2007. HQV’s true 1080i to 1080p HD deinterlacing delivers the sharpest, most detailed HD images possible by employing per-pixel motion adaptive algorithms and a sophisticated multi-directional diagonal filter that ensures video free from jagged edges. The HQV processing engine also provides per-pixel motion adaptive noise-reduction, detail enhancement and advanced scaling delivering premium quality up-converted SD material.

FACTORY gate sales of consumer electronics are projected to exceed $155 billion in 2007, or seven per cent growth, according to the industry forecast by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). "The consumer electronics industry has outdone itself once again, with revenues totalling $145 billion in 2006, and we're on track for another year of healthy growth," said CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro.

BANDAI Visual, Microsoft and Memory-Tech agree to collaborate on the development of HD DVD Authoring technology for the release of Freedom (a New Anime Title), Royal Space Force - The Wings of Honneamise, Patlabor The Movie and Patlabor 2 The Movie as HD DVD Titles. The participation in recent VC-1 image tuning of Bandai Visual, with its strong track record in high-end animation production and packaged DVD sales, has enabled the creation of high picture quality titles. And the three companies are contributing to the building of services that make use of next-generation formats such as HDi.

ONKYO announced plans to launch its first HD DVD player for the North American market in 2007. Onkyo will introduce an HD DVD player initially in the North American market, where there is a strong demand for packaged media in high definition with the increasing large screen HDTVs market, and then plans to further expand to other markets. Onkyo also plans to develop AV receivers to enjoy HD DVD content through a single HDMI cable that transfers video, audio and control signals.

STEVE Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer, Inc – now renamed Apple, Inc – has unveiled a new mobile phone, the iPhone, and a set-top box, known as Apple TV, designed for users to watch downloaded movies on television. Apple TV has a 40GB hard drive to store up to 50 hours of video, 9,000 songs, 25,000 photos or a combination of each and is capable of delivering high-definition 720p output. Using high-speed wireless connection, Apple TV can auto-sync content from one computer or stream content from up to five additional computers directly to a television set. Apple TV is set to ship from February.

2006 showed dramatic growth in the sales of digital music downloads according to Nielsen SoundScan. Sales of individually downloaded digital tracks are up more than 67% over the same period in 2005, accounting for more than 525 million digital downloads; already 173 million more than 2005's annual total, 150% higher than total track sales for all of 2004. In 2006 to date, 60 tracks have sold more than 500,000 units as opposed to only 22 tracks in all of 2005. Digitally downloaded albums have increased more than 100% with 29.7 million YTD in 2006 versus 14.5 million in the same time period in 2005. In 2006 to date, 11 albums have sold more than 100,000 units digitally comparing to only 3 for the entire year in 2005 and none in 2004.

X-BOX 360 HD DVD drive add-on, which launched in November, sold 42,000 units in its first month and another 50,000 in December. Bringing the total up to close to 100,000 drives sold according to figures released by NPD Group.

ONLINE sales of TV shows, movies and other prerecorded video will become a billion-dollar business in 2007, according to Strategy Analytics. While video download sales made through Apple’s iTunes store and other sources totaled just $300 million in 2006, by the end of 2007 the market will grow to $1.5 billion. By 2010, global revenue from online video sales, rentals and subscriptions will surge to $5.9 billion, and account for eight percent of total home video industry revenues.

WORLDWIDE sales of downloaded music, including cellphone ringtones, rose 82 percent to about $2 billion in 2006 to account for around 10 percent of music industry sales, up from 5.5 percent, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). Sales were about evenly split between downloads to a PC and over-the-air downloads of ringtones and full music tracks to a cellphone. Despite digital-music gains, worldwide music industry sales nonetheless fell, according to IFPI. Worldwide music industry sales slid to about $20 billion in 2006 from $21 billion in 2005, IFPI statistics show.

SEEKING to further define itself just over a year after its split with sister company Viacom, CBS Corp. said it has established a separate unit for its fast-growing DVD business, which will be called CBS Home Entertainment. CBS Home Entertainment will be a part of the company's newly-created CBS Consumer Products Group, under the umbrella of CBS Television Distribution.

AT CES the Consumer Electronics Association selected LG Electronics' "Super Multi Blue" Player (Model BH100) – the first player with both Blu-ray disc and HD DVD playback capabilities – as the show's overall best product. The Super Multi Blue Player utilizes the Broadcom universal optical disc platform featuring a combined Blu-ray disc and HD DVD system-on-a-chip solution.