Europe's online source of news, data & analysis for professionals involved in packaged media and new delivery technologies

News in Brief - january 2003


Sanyo Japan is currently developing the first chipset that will handle DVD recording at 8x. No details regarding which DVD formats it will support ( -R or +R or both). AccessTEK of Taiwan is in line to be the first manufacturer to use the new chipset in a DVD recorder. Barring hitches, expect it to hit the market in September.

Panasonic believes the rewritable DVD market will grow even faster than the DVD player category, which after only six years on the market has a 40% home penetration rate in the United States. The company cites data from the NPD Group that shows about 1 million DVD burners of all types will ship this year and 12 million by 2005 in the US alone. Reid Sullivan, merchandising VP for Panasonic's entertainment group, also cites a report from IDC Research that had Panasonic with a 65% market share in the US DVD burner business in February, up from the 50% it carried through most of 2002. Dr. Paul Liao, Panasonic's chief technology officer, said one of the primary reasons for such fast adoption is that consumers view DVD recorders simply as VCR replacements. A Panasonic sponsored IDC study showed that most consumers want to record TV with a DVD recorder, with viewing, editing and transferring home video the next favorite features.

In 2002, worldwide chip sales increased 1.3 percent, to $152 billion. So says market researcher Gartner and the Semiconductor Industry Association. Last month, the association lowered its 2003 chip industry growth forecast to 12-15% from nearly 20 percent, while analysts predict growth of 10 percent to 15 percent. But Gartner says global semiconductor sales will grow 8.3%, producing revenue totaling $168 billion this year. Researchers previous forecast was for growth of 8.9 percent.

Cheertek Inc. has licensed DivX video compression technology – the MP3 of video – for its next generation DVD chipsets. Manufacturer, which is the largest brand name integrated circuit supplier in the Taiwan integrated circuit industry and focuses on DVD and VCD player chipset solutions, will work with DivXNetworks to create a fully DivX Certified chipset for the DVD player market. DivX video, which offers DVD-quality at 7-10 times greater compression than MPEG-2, is a popular MPEG-4 compatible video compression technology with over 80 million worldwide users. A range of DivX Certified
consumer electronics devices are scheduled to hit the market in 2003. DivX Certification includes a full DivX software development kit, rigorous Certification testing, and marketing and sales support focused on helping third party development and OEM partners.

Technicolor, a unit of French CE leviathan Thomson, is providing the manufacturing services for the time-limited DVD format EZ-D in a live market test of Flexplay's technology. The first wave of product will comprise Buena Vista Home Entertainment titles – The Recruit, Rabbit Proof Fence, The Hot Chick, 25th Hour, Heaven, Equilibrium, Frida and Signs. A Flexplay-enabled DVD is similar to a conventional DVD, except that it has a pre-set viewing window that begins only after the disc is removed from its packaging. Technicolor says the dedication of production lines to test the viability of the Flexplay format is consistent with Thomson's strategy to help content owners pioneer new, innovative ways to get their products to market.

Micro Solutions is shipping a new Hi-Speed USB 2.0 DVD+RW backpack drive. An external drive, it is targeted at computer users looking for an easy-to-use, portable, removable storage device for creating, storing and sharing home videos, photographs and music. The drive will be among the fastest on the market. It has speeds of 4x DVD+R, 2.4x DVD+RW, 12x DVD read, 16x CD-R, 10x CD-RW and 40x CD read. It has buffer underrun protection and drivers for Windows 98, Me, 2000 or XP. Software bundled in includes MyDVD, CyberLink PowerDVD, for playing DVDs, and Micro Solutions SpeedyCD, for creating data and music CDs that can be read on any computer or audio CD player. The new version 3 supports DVD media and can be used to create or duplicate data DVDs.

Fujitsu introduced May 20 the smallest full-featured notebook PC to incorporate Intel Centrino mobile technology and a DVD drive.The new LifeBook P5000 bridges the gap between ultraportable and full-feature computing. At 3.4-pounds and with a 10.6-inch wide-format
display, the notebook is being pitched as a full-fledged multimedia solution.. While on the road, users can watch DVD movies and burn CDs or they can insert the optional second battery for up to 10.5 hours of battery life.

The resin that has gone into the limited-play DVD discs from Flexplay Technologies, due to be tested by Buena Vista for commercial DVD releases, is a patented Lexan polycarbonate co-polymer from GE Plastics. A Flexplay DVD is similar to the conventional type except it has a restricted viewing lifetime of 48 hours that begins only after the disc is removed from its packaging. After that the DVD is no longer readable. An essential component of the technology, the GEP resin, is a technical breakthrough, the company says. John Dineen, GEP vice-president and global Lexan business leader: “This can help revolutionise and expand the DVD marketplace. We are fully committed to maximising this technology globally.”

CenDyne’s new range of DVD recorders support four DVD formats, DVD-RW, DVD-R, DVD+RW and DVD+R, as well as CD-R and CD-RW. Three in number, the new machines come with DVD burning software for storing more than two hours of video onto a single 4.7GB DVD. Included is a user-friendly tutorial software to help customers install and use the new drives. Both external and internal drives burn at the rate of 4X DVD+R and DVD-R. They support up to 2.4X DVD+RW, 2X DVD-RW, 16X CD-R and 10X CD-RW, and read DVD movies, DVD-ROM and CD-ROM media.

German video distributor VCL Film is expected to sign over to MGM the right to distribute in German-speaking Europe DVD and VHS versions of selected films from VCL's library. Mooted deal would run for an extended period but details remain under wraps.

Toshiba has a new multi-format DVD recorder, the D-R1. It incorporates a Super MultiDrive to record and play back video on DVD-RAM, DVD-R and DVD-RW recordable disc formats. It can output video signals in progressive scan format for playback through most digital television monitors. Using a disc based on the DVD-RAM rewritable format, the deck’s Time Slip function can simultaneously record and play back recordings, enabling users to pause live television. Also, consumers can view a programme from the beginning as recording progresses. Time Slip cannot be used with either the DVD-R or DVD-RW formats. The new recorder has a Gemstar VCR+Plus programming system and is being promoted both as “a replacement to the VCR” and “for the more advanced user who wants to edit content”.

With their 10-year anniversary coming up in September, British electronica act the Chemical Brothers will put out a DVD along with celebratory audio discs. The DVD will carry clips by various directors, live concert footage and previously unreleased material.

A five-hour double disc Led Zeppelin DVD will be released May 27. Unusually, the disc is to be screened in several US cinemas as part of of a major promotional push by Atlantic Records. Concert material for the DVD was assembled by guitarist Jimmy Page who spend a year putting it together in an attempt to tell the full story of the band’s enduring success.

Three Taiwanese optical chip designers – MediaTek, ALi and VIA Optical Solution (VOS) – plan to launch self-developed SoC (system-on-chip) solutions for DVD players and 52x CD-RW drives starting in mid-2003, according to reports. MediaTek, the world's largest maker of chips for DVD players, plans to start sampling a single-chip solution that integrates servo, MPEG-2 decoder and RF ICs for DVD players in June or July. Servo and RF integrated chips for 52x CD-RW drives are also expected to be sampled by the company this summer and could start 0.18-micron volume production as early as the end of this year. MediaTek last year became the first company to offer one chip for DVD players that combines the functions of several, helping customers that make the players cut production costs.

British-based music corporation, the Sanctuary Group, the second-largest independent record company, is to collaborate on DVD/AV programming, audio licensing sales, distribution and merchandising with BMG. Latter will market, promote and distribute Sanctuary DVD catalogues throughout world markets, ex-US, and the companies will work together on DVD programming and sales through Sanctuary's visual entertainment division. Sanctuary, which handles more than 80 artists and producers, runs such labels as Rough Trade, Pie, Essential, Castle and Trojan.

Bill Laursen will lead the sales and service operation in the US for Swedish company M2, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of optical disc production systems and equipment for DVD. He Laursen succeeds Sven Lindstrom, who returns to M2’s headquarters in Stockholm as Product Manager for new developments.

SpectraDisc Corporation, a US company focused on the development of a limited-play DVD product for the entertainment, software and advertising industries, says their patent is of particular importance because it both supports all methods relating to the use of the read out laser to affect the limited play mechanism as well as the company’s approach to low cost packaging of the disc. The patent covers the use of a barrier layer that preserves the playability of the disc throughout the distribution chain. But once the consumer removes the barrier packaging, the limited duration in play time begins.

DVD rental vending machines are being tested in four grocery stores in the US. The machines enable shoppers to browse movie and video game offerings and reserve the DVDs online before going into the store. Payment is made by swiping a membership card or credit card through a slot. Getamovie Inc. created the machines and plans to roll ‘em out nationally next year.

Hitachi says it has developed technology to make DVDs with storage capacity for 200 movies. Company aims to commercialise the technology in 2007. The technology, which involves stacking multiple data-storing layers to ensure accurate reading and writing of data that can run up to 400 hours, was developed with Hitachi Maxell Ltd. Conventional technologies so far allow up to two layers in a DVD.

Sony has upgraded its multi-format DVD recording drive adding faster recording to the unit. The DRU-510A internal drive and DRX-510UL external drive are upgraded versions of Sony's 500 series multi-format drives that were unveiled last year – the first drives to support both the competing 'plus' and 'minus' recordable DVD formats. The new drives, available in May and June, support 4X recording for DVD+R, DVD+RW, and DVD-R and 2X recording for DVD-RW. At 4X speed it will take approximately 15 minutes to fill a 4.7GB DVD disc to capacity, versus almost 30 minutes using 2X speed and an hour at 1X speed. However, media that supports the higher speed will be needed to realise the speed increases.

As part of its internet marketing strategy the 25-year-old manufacturer COPS is offering musicians and their managements a guide to producing DVD-Video. An article on their web site takes viewers through all the stages and offers time/money-saving tips. Babbie Dahdi: “Some people need to know more about what's involved in dovetailing their components for DVD - or CD - manufacturing, so we’re suggesting they check out http://www.cops.co.uk/successful_cd_dvd_rep.html”.

The Pearl Jam band are innovating with DVD. Their new DVD, Showbox', is available from their website (from May 25) or at their gigs only. The DVD, which is not region coded, is the warm-up show the band performed last December and features 10 songs from their current album Riot Act performed live as well as a few old favourites.

WinDVD Creator, Intervideo's DVD-making software, is included as an option on new IBM ThinkPads. Option is being offered with 10 different models across four different ThinkPad series. WinDVD Creator is a storyboard-based video-editing product designed to turn raw video footage into professional-looking DVDs and walks users through four separate movie-making steps to complete personal DVD and VCD movies – Capture, Edit, Author and Output.