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News in Brief

PHILIPS Electronics is bringing its first Blu-ray devices, the TripleWriter all-in-one PC Writer in North America and Europe later in the year. The TripleWriter features a 2x (72MB/s continuous-data rate) read and writer speed on BD-ROM, BD-R and BD-RE media. The drive reads and writes a variety of legacy media including: CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-ROM, DVD+R, DVD+R DL, DVD-R, DVD-R DL, DVD+RW and DVD-RW.

RUMORS are rife that Apple is in the middle of creating a movie store for its iTunes service, with films available for a $9.99 download,according to a Variety report. Steve Jobs is apparently in negotiations with a number of major film studios. However, the sticking point seems to be the price model. Movie studios want to be able to charge different amounts for different movies - in the same way that it charges a premium for new releases on DVD today. However, Jobs is adamant that the flat-rate pricing model - the same way that music is handled on the store today - is the way forward. There is speculation that distribution of the movies could be handled by a version of the BitTorrent client. Torrents are allegedly built into the next version of OSX, and speculation is that Music Store 'credits' could be gained for use of uploading bandwidth.

THOUGH the HD DVD format launched less than two months ago, Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced it will already be dropping the list price of all its current and upcoming releases on the format. The studio will cut the price of its entire HD DVD library to $29.95; most current releases from the studio retail for $34.95. The only Universal HD DVD titles not to be affected by the new pricing tier will be the studio's upcoming HD DVD/DVD hybrid discs. The first two titles announced, National Lampoon's Animal House and Unleashed, will retail for $34.95. All Universal price reductions will be effective beginning 8 August 2006.

LiITE-ON IT will reportedly start volume production of 18x DVD burners in July and plans to start production of 20x DVD burners in the fourth quarter of this year, according to Michael Gong, the company's Optical Disc Drive Business general manager. Intense competition is driving the price of 16x DVD burners down so the company is switching to producing the more profitable 18x and 20x DVD burners. Lite-On is currently receiving orders to make DVD drives for Sony NEC Optiarc and BenQ. Volume production of their Blu-ray and HD-DVD optical drives is due to begin in August, although these product lines will not become mainstream until 2008 due to cost. Lite-On IT will remain focused on DVD burners over the next two years, Gong pointed out. Sources have also indicated that Lite-On may be launching a combo Blu-ray and HD DVD drive in the future.

WARNER Home Video (WHV) has announced the June 20 HD DVD debuts of Syriana and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Syriana will be released day-and-date with its standard definition version and will sell for $34.99. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang will be released as an HD-DVD/DVD combo and is available for $39.99 SRP. Lethal Weapon will follow with its HD DVD debut on June 27 for $28.99.

MAXELL will begin shipping high-definition blank media to retailers beginning in August. The recording media giant will begin its effort on the Blu-Ray Disc format side with write-once (BD-R) and rewriteable (BD-RE) versions. Maxell will roll out the rival format's HD DVD discs in September. It plans to ship write-once and rewriteable, or what the DVD Forum calls "re-recordable," versions.

MGM has ended its domestic distribution deal with Sony and signed a new worldwide video and DVD distribution pact with 20th Century Fox. The move follows MGM's March announcement to again begin distributing movies to theatres on its own. Previously, MGM had split video and DVD distribution between Fox overseas and Sony in domestic arenas, but now says it wants to consolidate sales efforts under one company and re-establish a TV sales division. Sony has a seat on MGM's board, meaning it did have a say in the decision.

WARNER Bros. is launching a direct-to-DVD business that will release 10 to 15 low-budget movies a year. First up will be a sequel to the studio’s 2005 hit The Dukes of Hazzard, scheduled to go on sale at the end of this year or in early 2007. Warner aims to keep each direct-to-DVD movie’s production budget to $5 million or less. Until now, Warner has released direct-to-video titles on a scattershot basis, mostly animated family fare from the studio’s Scooby-Doo, Tom & Jerry and Loony Toons franchises.

BENQ plans to launch a Blu-ray Disc drive later this year that will be able to write as well as read data, the firm's chairman said today."We have a prototype ready and we are going to ship [the product] before the end of the year," BenQ chairman KY Lee said in an interview. The prototype drive was unveiled at a Taipei news conference the same day. It is a standard 'half-height' drive designed for use in desktop computers, and can also write DVDs and CDs.

TOSHIBA introduced its first HD DVD-equipped notebook computer through its elite Qosmio line. The Qosmio G-35-AV650 will ship next week with a $2,999 suggested retail price, $600 more then the currently available Qosmio G35-AV600. The new Qosmio will not replace the older model, but the two will sell side by side. The notebook will make its public debut at the E3 show in Los Angeles. Other additions to the new model are a faster Intel Duo Core processor, two 100GB hard drives, a new graphics card, an HDMI output and a 1,920 by 1,200 resolution display. The HD DVD drive will also burn to and play all other DVD and CD media.

ACCORDING to Taiwanese manufacturers quoted in DigiTimes, the 18x DVD burners are going to make some impressive sales gains in the coming months. They already feel the demand growing for these faster drives and manufacturers are responding to the market now. Toshiba-Samsung Storage Technology (TSST) this month will launch its 18x Super Multi DVD burners, which have a writing speed of 12x for the DVD-RAM format, higher than the 4-6x of other Super Multi models, the sources indicated. Japan-based Plextor launched a 18x DVD Dual burner in February of this year. Lite-On IT, Taiwan's largest ODD maker, is poised to begin volume production of 18x DVD burners next quarter.