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

News in Brief - july 2007

SONY has decided to give up on the music and video download business, choosing to focus on its PlayStation group instead. The closing of Connect would also mean the loss of at least 20 jobs, as has been reported over the weekend. The change reflects the climate of the digital music industry, where Apple has a near stranglehold on the market. Sony Connect chief Steve Banfield will leave the company, putting Tim Schaaff and Fumi Kanagwa to run the remaining portion of the division.

DATARIUS Optical Products (DOP), part of the DaTARIUS Group, has announced that, following its acquisition earlier this year of German-based optical engineering company Op-tection, it has reached a partnership agreement with R&D Hi-Tech Corp of Taiwan for flat panel display (FPD) inspection systems.

WHILE DVD burners will continue to be the dominant volume product of the optical/removable storage market until 2011, due to commodity prices and almost universal compatibility, next-generation drives are ramping up, according to IDC's latest report. Key findings include: Continued PC market growth will give the CD/DVD market a positive outlook in 2007 and beyond. This is especially true for slim drives for laptop PCs; Blu-ray disc needs to maintain support from its impressive lineup of consumer electronics and content companies, ensure that PS3 generates additional momentum, and stay within reach on product pricing; HD DVD needs to show a clear price advantage over BD products, be more consumer-friendly in terms of moving/accessing content, and provide easy licensing to second-tier manufacturers.

CHICAGO Digital Post/Great Lakes Digital Media, a multimedia service and disc manufacturing company, has struck a licensing deal with Macrovision to make RipGuard-MOD, the entertainment industry's most popular rip control technology-available to independent producers who create recordable DVD Video products. RipGuard-MOD works by modifying the file structure of the disc, thereby neutralizing the ripping programme – without installing software on users' computers, altering those PCs, or affecting the playback or performance of the DVD itself.

CNET reports that Microsoft has so far sold 155,000 HD DVD drives for the Xbox 360 in the UK, making it the console’s “biggest-selling accessory.” However, the company refrained from revealing statistics of how well their product is selling worldwide. But according to the same report, other regions of the world may actually end up being HD DVD’s saving grace.

TOSHIBA is making permanent the special Father's Day $299 price for its entry-level HD DVD player (HD-A2). The $299 price, which is $100 off the previous suggested retail price, has increased player sales by several times, company officials say. Many industry observers are predicting a price war between HD DVD and its rival, Blu-ray. Panasonic this month announced the launch of a $599 Blu-ray player and Sony issued a $499 Blu-ray player. The Toshiba Father's Day $100 rebate was launched in May and ran until June 16.

SUNDAY UK newspaper, The Mail on Sunday, is understood to have paid £500,000 to give away Prince’s new 10-track Planet Earth album, in an unprecedented move that has infuriated music retailers. The newspaper is hoping that its costs will be justified by increased sales when it releases the album before any other distributor in the world. Newspapers have used CD and DVD cover mounts for several years but never before has an artist released a new album as a giveaway. The UK arm of Sony BMG's Columbia records has withdrawn the title from its global distribution deal.

FRANCE’s Syndicat de l’édition vidéo (SEV) – the video publishers’ trade body – is being renamed Syndicat de l’édition vidéo numérique (SEVN) – the digital video publishers’ trade body. It has a new logo as well. This name change reflects the importance of digital delivery platforms such as online catalogues, video download services and high definition, the range of activities in which SEVN members are now involved. Philippe Bastard de Crisnay, from Warner Home Vidéo, has been re-elected President together with the full executive committee.

ACCORDING to the Infosmart Group, with a population of 185 million and 60 million TV households, Brazil has only 4 million households with DVD players.

TOSHIBA has announced that in September they will be bringing native output support for 24p (1080p@24fps) to several models in their range of HD DVD players via firmware update. A feature long desired by videophiles and fans of the format, such a move will allow the Toshiba HD-XA2 and HD-A20 to output film-based content at the native 24 frames-per-second of the source material. Although the perceived detrimental effects of 3:2 pulldown - known as judder - have been a contentious topic in certain AV circles for some time, the CE industry has increasingly been moving towards support for native film frame-rates in high-end equipment.

SONY Picture Home Entertainment has announced a huge increase in European Blu-ray disc sales – attributing the rise to the release of PlayStation 3. Media reports are claiming more than 180,000 SPHE films have now been sold in Europe and according to Sony, sales have risen by over 1000 per cent since the PS3 launched in March. The company also said SPHE titles account for more than 50 per cent of all Blu-ray discs sold in the UK, France and Spain. "The launch of the PS3 had a tremendous impact on Blu-ray software sales across the board," said Matt Brown, executive VP at Sony Pictures. "Recent sales figures are a clear indication that the PS3 is seen as an entertainment device."

ALBATRON has created a graphics card with the primary focus of enabling Blu-ray movie playback on a PC. The new “Blue Ray Decoder Card” is a graphics card based on Nvidia’s 8500GT graphics processor. The specifications mirror Nvidia’s 8500GT reference card which include a 450 MHz core and a 400 MHz memory clock as well as a 256 MB memory buffer. The model is Nvidia's cheapest 8-series card to support a resolution of 2560x1600 and is hoping to make Blu-ray playback more attractive on a PC. Pricing has not been announced.

SHARP has announced that it is to releasing a new Blu-ray player this autumn. The BD-HP205 model will support 1080p at both 24fps and 60fps, have on-board Dolby TrueHD decoding, and the latest HDMI version 1.3.