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News in Brief - may 2003


Philips has begun shipping to Hewlett-Packard a new DVD burner drive that is designed to write data more quickly to DVD+R and DVD+RW discs. Drive records in DVD+R format at 4x speeds and in DVD+RW format at 2.4x speeds. It can also burn CDs, according Philips. HP will likely use the drive in a number of desktop PCs this year.

Philips says Pioneer is to use the European giant's Super Audio CD (SACD) single-chip solution, the SAA7893HL in its DV-563A-S DVD Player and HTZ-830DV Home Theatre System. Philips is pitching the SAA7893HL chip as the ideal semiconductor solution to seamlessly and add SACD capabilities to DVD devices. "The SACD format has been gaining momentum in the DVD market, presenting a growth opportunity for chipmakers," says Michelle Abraham of analysts In-Stat/MDR. "By 2005, 35% of all DVD players will include SACD as a standard feature."

Liberty International Entertainment has acquired the exclusive distribution rights to the DVD title Paul Is Live In Concert On The New World Tour, featuring Paul McCartney singing Beatles classics, Wings standards and other numbers. Title will be available in the US in August in Europe in October.

VSDA's Home Entertainment get-together, due to roll at the Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas July 29-31, will sport a number of celebrities, including Peter Fonda and the Smothers Brothers. The show includes 15 seminars whose topics range from the basics of running a video rental store to the strategic challenges and opportunities presented by video-on-demand, high-definition DVD, new video game technologies, music video DVDs, DVD vending machines, Internet piracy, and censorship legislation. Complete schedule and lists of exhibitors and seminars is available online at www.homeentertainmentevents.com.

Gigabyte Technology, a latecomer in the optical storage business, will be the first to release a DVD-Dual drive supporting 4x burning for both the DVD+R/RW and DVD-R/RW formats. Manufacturing has been outsourced to the Taiwanese Lite-On Group and volume production will begin in August. Gigabyte forecasts DVD-Dual drives will become a mainstream component in the PC market in one to two years. Global sales this year could reach about 12 million units.

Panasonic branded DVD entertainment systems will be available as optional, factory-installed equipment in 20 of next year's models from General Motors, up from 14 models in 2003. The Panasonic systems include a new sunroof-compatible model.

The Auckland War Memorial has spent $70,000 developing a DVD, complete with a 3D virtual tour, to show prospective investors some new facilities and to ensure visitors are kept abreast of a planned makeover. Development manager Amanda Sutherland says: "We wanted a way to convey not just the plans of the new facilities, but the ambience. A lot of people can't read plans. Most like something that you can almost walk your way through and feel you are part of it." The DVD was developed by Auckland media company ZoomSlide Media.

Lite-On IT of Taiwan plans to launch half-height 8x DVD+RW and DVD-Dual drives in October and November before introducing its first external slim-type DVD-Dual drive in December. Company recently brought out its first half-height 4x DVD+RW drive, the LDW-401S. The drive enables 4x writing speed with DVD+R and DVD+RW discs, taking about 15 minutes to back up 4.7GB of data, and 12x reading speed with DVD-ROM discs. The drive allows writing speeds of 40x for CD-R and 24x for CD-RW and a reading speed of 40x for CD-ROM discs, the company said. Initial clients for the drive are mostly channel distributors, but Lite-On IT is gearing up to take orders from major PC brands.

Philips reported sales decreases in television and audio/video entertainment products as lower consumer spending and SARS related effects pushed sales of consumer electronics down 18%.
Electronics sales during the second quarter of the current year, reached $2.2 billion, compared with $2.7 billion in the same period a year ago. Philips reported a $47.4 million operating loss in its consumer electronics sector during the second three months, ended in June, the first CE segment loss in six quarters and down from operating income of $30.4 million in the year-ago second quarter.

The latest entry in Sony's desktop PC family – the VAIO PCV-W500GN1 desktop unleashed July 15 – is designed to multiply entertainment options with a 17.5-inch wide format bright LCD, integrated DVD/CD-RW drive and Giga Pocket personal video recorder. It has a small footprint but, says Hideyuki Furumi, director of VAIO desktop marketing for Sony Electronics: "This is big screen entertainment for a small space – time-shift your TV viewing; edit your own photos, music or video; and output your creative projects to CD or DVD – all in the fraction of the space needed for an old 15-inch CRT."
Uniquely, the new model adjusts to the needs of the user and the environment with several operating modes for computing, watching DVDs or listening to music.

German company Atmel Corporation has announced the availability of the world's smallest dual-output laser diode driver ICs for the next generation of combined DVD+/-R, DVD+/-RW and CD-R/RW end products. The new devices, ATR0807 and ATR0808, are three-channel laser diode driver ICs with two selectable outputs. The two identical outputs can either be used for DVD- or CD-RW laser diodes. Each of them supports currents up to 500 mA. Rise and fall times are lower than 0.8 ns. This allows the development of DVD/CD drives with write speeds of 4 to 8 times for DVD and up to 52 times for CD. The first such products in extra-small 4 mm x 4 mm QFN16 packages for space-saving applications, which makes them an option for the new DVD+/-R/+/-RW and CD-R/RW super combo drives that integrate re-writeable DVD and CD drive in one device.

Taiwan-based Sampo Corporation launched a DVD Recorder, the DV-R1, based upon Cirrus Logic’s flagship CS98200 DVD processor and CS92288 MPEG audio/video codec. With an expected sub-$500 retail price, the DV-R1 will be available in retail outlets in the US, Taiwan and Europe later this month. Cirrus' CS92288 encoding solution provides high-quality video recording over a wide range of bitrates, enabling consumers to enjoy up to six hours of high-quality content on DVD recordable media while retaining compatibility with the installed base of DVD players. Cirrus' CS98200 DVD Processor is the industry's highest performing DVD processor, supporting DVD-Audio and MPEG-4. In addition, the Cirrus platform enables Sampo to integrate IEEE-1394 functionality and supports Kodak Picture CD, and MP3 and Windows Media Audio audio formats.

Elgato, the developer of EyeTV Digital Video Recorder, today announced that Freddie Geier, formerly Senior Director of Business Development at Apple Computer Inc., is joining the company as its new President and CEO. Geier joined Apple in early 2000, after Apple acquired the DVD software developed by Astarte, where he had General Manager responsibilities. Prior to that, Freddie was leading the sales and marketing team at Astarte that made Toast a household name in the Mac computer community.

Sony, Canon, sharp and JVC are to collaborate in the development of a way to record/play high-definition digital video on current cassette tapes. The group plans to complete the technology by September. Move comes as high definition television begins to take of in various parts of the world.

LSI Logic says that JVC has selected its DiMeNsion (DMN-8600) DVD recorder system processor for its dual-format DVD-RAM and DVD-RW recorder, the DR-M1, available this month in Japan and Europe. JVC is the first Japanese OEM to adopt the DMN-8600, a single-chip DVD recorder system processor that reduces cost, design complexity and time-to-market. JVC's DR-M1 records on DVD-RAM, DVD-RW and DVD-R disks in DVD-Video or DVD-VR formats, and plays DVD-Video, DVD-VR, VCD, MP3, JPEG or audio CD disks. It can time-shift television programs on DVD-RAM disk allowing users to pause, rewind, or instantly replay live television. The DR-M1 also enables users to connect digital camcorders through the high-speed IEEE-1394 connection and digitally transfer personal video content from the camcorder to a DVD disk.

Apple announced Wednesday that Soundtrack, a professional music creation tool originally offered specifically with Final Cut Pro 4, will be available as a standalone product. Apple plans to ship the software in August for US$299. Soundtrack enables video, DVD and Web project creators to incorporate original music into their projects. Soundtrack includes more than 30 audio effects created by Apple and Emagic, including Matrix Reverb, Compressor, Fat EQ, Sub-Bass and Tape Delay.

InterVideo Inc., which has sold more than 50 million copies of its flagship WinDVD software, raised $39.2 million in a July 16 initial public offering, underwriter SG Cowen said. The California company sold 2.8 million shares at $14 each, above the expected range of $11 to $13 per share. Sale gave InterVideo an implied market value of about $173.6 million, based on 12.4 million shares that will be outstanding according to the company's Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

MGM Home Entertainment took control of its operations in Australia, another step in its global expansion plans. Based in Sydney, MGM executive Don Hunton will head up a full-scale sales, marketing and distribution operation currently being planned for one of the fastest growing DVD markets in the world.

Memorex, a sales and marketer of digital media, will include Roxio's complete line of digital media software products with the new Memorex Dual Format DVD Recorder. Roxio's Easy CD & DVD Creator 6 Basic-DVD Edition, PhotoSuite 5 SE, VideoWave Movie Creator and DVDMax Player software are bundled with the Memorex Dual-X drive ($330). The Dual-X drive supports both DVD+ and DVD- recording formats.

Come the autumn, Matsushita is to launch under its Panasonic brand two DMR-E100 DVD players with hard disks and DVD-RAM/DVD-R recording capabilities. Machines have a 120GB and 160GB drives. Panasonic claims DVD-RAM is becoming the de facto standard for recordable optical disk media. Company says the multimedia recording capability of DVD-RAM discs and their ability to store JPEG data for digital photos and MPEG2 video data, is a key advantage over other DVDS recording formats.

ESS Technology, which develops silicon solutions for digital video, said its MPEG-2 Vantage video encoder and Vibratto decoder has been taken up by Polaroid for a recordable DVD-DVR ($399)unit. The Polaroid brand is licensed to the Petters Group. The Polaroid machine records up to four hours of content onto a DVD+R or DVD+RW disc and has a built-in TV tuner that allows simultaneous viewing and recording of two separate programmes.

China's BBK Electronics Corp. has developed a 40-gigabyte hard-disk-drive-based personal video recorder – a DVD-PVR player – based upon a comprehensive suite of audio and video semiconductors, including Cirrus Logic's CS92288 MPEG audio/video (A/V) codec and CS98000 DVD processor. BBK's DR9907 is the forerunner of a new product category that combines popular digital entertainment features into a single, compact and affordable consumer device. The product, which offers up to 41 hours of high-quality digital video encoding of content, such as broadcast television, will be marketed and distributed under the Philco brand in the United States and Europe.

TDK is shipping a versatile external DVD Multiformat burner. the model, DED+440, it can record DVD+R/+RW, DVD-R/-RW and CD-R/RW media. Software features a comprehensive range of video and audio applications that make it simple to create, edit and share custom DVDs and CDs complete with video, digital images, MP3 files, audio and data. With 4x DVD+R and DVD-R recording, the company claims the machine delivers the industry’s fastest speeds for both formats. The multiformat burner is plug-and-play with setup taking only a few minutes. And because it supports both major DVD recording formats (+ and –), it creates discs that can be played on most players.

Verbatim has launched DVD-RW 2x blank media. Having pushed through the DVD-R 4x barrier earlier this year, now this data storage specialist doubles the speed of the rewritable format. With sales of DVD recordable media going from strength-to-strength, Verbatim says it will continues to expand its range.

Lite-On IT of Taiwan plans to launch half-height 8x DVD+RW and DVD-Dual drives in October and November, respectively, before the introduction of its first external slim-type DVD-Dual drive in December. Company recently brought out its first half-height 4x DVD+RW drive, the LDW-401S. The drive enables 4x writing speed with DVD+R and DVD+RW discs, taking about 15 minutes to back up 4.7GB of data, and 12x reading speed with DVD-ROM discs. The drive allows writing speeds of 40x for CD-R and 24x for CD-RW and a reading speed of 40x for CD-ROM discs, the company said. Initial clients for the drive are mostly channel distributors, but Lite-On IT is gearing up to take orders from major PC brands.

Although market research firms generally predicted global notebook sales of 35 million units in 2003, first-half sales were better than expected and full-year sales should surpass 40 million units, says Taiwan-based Quanta Storage. Company is ranked in the top five slim-type DVD combo drive makers worldwide.

Asian manufacturer Microdia International is to invest $3 million over the next 12 months in production equipment and facilities in anticipation of a growth in demand for DVD products, said its executive director Louis Leung. "As with most DVD manufacturers, we are facing the challenge of new standards such as DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM. We will continue to go with the market and invest heavily in cutting-edge production facilities. It has become a race for us to adapt our R&D to various companies such as Hitachi, Matsushita, Pioneer, Philips and Sony," Leung said.

In the belief that the preschool market for DVD will grow significantly in the short term, Hollywood content supplier MGM is to launch the MGM Kids label. The company has completed deals for some high-profile children's product and has picked up live action and animated films and television material from such companies as Scholastic Entertainment, Nelvana, NBC Enterprises, the Mad Science Group, Monster Distributes, Southern Start Sales and WGBH Boston Video. The studio estimates that spending on so-called family video was $4 billion in 2002. This is bound to increase as DVD players are being deployed as toys and as in-car entertainment devices. DVD is rapidly gaining on VHS in the kids programming arena, according to MGM Home Entertainment Group. The company feels there will be overall growth for this genre, regardless as to how the market moves.

Warners is preparing to offer DVD retailers a new revenue-sharing deal, starting in August. Under the plan, retailers pay nothing in advance and share 35% of rental revenues with the studio. Titles will remain as rental items for 29 days. Lease term is six months.

LaCie Group, which specialises in developing storage peripherals, announced the introduction this month of a DVD+/-RW drive ($299) that comes in two configurations – the first supports USB 2.0 and FireWire, while the other has a FireWire interface only. The drives are compatible with both Macintosh and PC computers. The company claims it is offering consumers the most universal and versatile DVD drive ever. It comes with Sonic MyDVD Video Suite, Arcsoft Showbiz, Roxio EasyCDCreator, Intervideo WinDVD, Roxio Toast Lite, and LaCie's CaptyDVD.

DVD software provider InterVideo is planning an initial public offering. It expects to sell 2.3 million shares of common stock on July 16 at between $11 and $13 each, raising some $27.6 million

The Memorex Dual Format DVD recorder, shipping in July, is being billed as the most complete retail package inside and out. Company says installation takes less time than watching a movie trailer. The all-in-one Dual X package includes a new drive that delivers eight recording and playback formats, a complete software suite, an illustrated installation map, a manual, blank DVD discs, an IDE ribbon cable, and a hardware set with audio cable and fastening screws.

Apricorn, a maker of portable data storage and transfer products, releases July 31 the EZ Writer, a portable optical drive weighing 12 ounces and measuring a 3/4" x 5 1/2" x 5 1/2". The external drive comes in two versions, EZ Writer Combo ($270) and EZ Writer DVD ($430), that can store data, music, movies and MP3s in an all-inclusive package. EZ Writer Combo can burn and play CDs, backup data files, store digital music and photos and play DVDs. The drives, which requires Windows XP, have the functionality of a standard half-height drive in a slim-line enclosure and are probably the smallest on the market.

DTS (Digital Theater Systems, Inc.) saw strong demand for the shares before the pricing of its initial public offering. DTS sought to sell 3.4 million at $14 to $16 a share. In the end, it sold 3.84 million at a $17 each. The shares closed their first trading day on the Nasdaq Stock Market at $24.92, 47% above the offering price. DTS licenses its technology to consumer electronics products manufacturers for inclusion in products such as DVD players, audio/video receivers, and home theatre systems.

Korean electronics giant Samsung has launched a 40-inch LCD display which will go head-to-head with plasma screens in the wall-mounted flat-screen market. The Syncmaster 403T TFT LCD ($8,115) is the largest LCD display yet to go on sale, claims Samsung. Rival firm LG Philips has announced that it will launch 42- and 52-inch LCD displays later this year, and both Samsung and LG Philips have demonstrated prototype 52-inch LCD displays.