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News in Brief

MICROSOFT has officially denied that it is working with Taiwanese manufacturer Lite-On to develop a Blu-ray drive for the Xbox 360. Register Hardware reported the drives would be integrated into a smaller and less power-hungry Xbox 360s. But a Microsoft spokeswoman has denied any such rumours. In a statement, Microsoft said: “No. Lite-On is not manufacturing Blu-ray drives for Xbox 360.” The company added that Xbox 360 sales are driven by games and that the Redmond-based firm “remains focused on providing the largest library of blockbuster games available."

TOSHIBA has said it will continue selling HD DVD-R media, made by Ritek and Mitsubishi Chemicals, directly through its Shop1048 web site. The available media include MC's "VR75NP10-DAV" HD DVD-R SL; the "VR150TP10-DAV" HD DVD-R DL; and Ritek's "70H30HTSB0001" HD DVD-R SL. The HD DVD-R (recordable) media are for owners of Toshiba's HD DVD recorders such as the RD-A301, RD-A1/A600/A300 models, which are sold in Japan.

SONY Pictures Home Entertainment will become the first major US studio to release DVDs in Vietnam. The studio has partnered with Vietnamese company Galaxy Studio for distribution in the country. Releases begin 9 May 2008, with a group of 15 titles, including Casino Royale, Surf’s Up and the ‘Spider-Man’ franchise. Future plans call for the release of approximately five to 10 DVD titles per month and the eventual launch of Blu-ray Disc releases.

EROS Group, one of the leading players in consumer electronics, telecom and allied multi-products in the Middle East region, has introduced the world's first Blu-ray Hybrid camcorder in the UAE. The DZ-BD7HSW is Hitachi's flagship Blu-ray Hard Disk Drive Hybrid model which incorporates Blu-ray disc recording capability and a 30 gigabyte HDD. The integrated 30GB HDD can record approximately four hours of Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 video (HX mode) or up to eight hours of HD 1,440 x 1,080 video (HS mode).

APPLE announced that new movie releases from major film studios and premier independent studios are available for purchase on the iTunes Store on the same day as their DVD release. The iTunes Store has a catalogue of over six million songs, 600 TV shows and over 1,500 films including 200 in high definition video. iTunes Movies are available in the US only and are $9.99 (US) for library title purchases and $14.99 (US) for new release purchases and $2.99 (US) for library title rentals and $3.99 (US) for new release rentals, and high definition rental versions are priced just one dollar more with library title rentals at $3.99 (US) and new release rentals at $4.99 (US).

RUMORS of an Xbox game console with built-in Blu-ray drive refuses to die. According to the Chinese-language Economic Daily News newspaper we can expect Blu-ray fitted consoles from Microsoft by this year's third quarter. The newspaper said that Pegatron Technology, an OEM subsidiary of Asustek Computer, has already secured orders from Microsoft. The Chinese paper said that Pegatron is hired to assemble these Blu-ray equipped Xbox 360s. Microsoft has been denying such rumors in the past.

IRELAND would appear to be one of the fastest growing markets in Europe for the Blu-ray format. Sony announced that it aims to capture 20% of Ireland's home video electronic sales this year, backing its intentions by cutting the price of the BDP-S300 Blu-ray player from €499 to €399. "Overwhelming support from all the relevant industries, including Hollywood studios, consumer electronics and IT companies, retailers and video rental stores is clear proof that consumers have chosen Blu-ray as the next generation optical disc format. said Sushil Teji, General Manager from Sony Consumer Electronics, Ireland.

MICROSOFT has flatly denied reports of a Blu-ray drive for its Xbox 360 gaming console. A company official in an email response to said, "We have no plans to introduce a Blu-ray drive for Xbox 360. Games are what drive consumers to purchase gaming consoles, and we remain focused on providing the largest library of blockbuster games available." Reports have been doing the rounds ever since Microsoft withdrew HD DVD support that the company would eventually go with Blu-ray for its Xbox 360 console.

RELATED Content Database Inc (RCDb) has announced the availability of advanced services and technology for BD Live. The RCDb BD Live Platform provides Blu-ray studios, developers and consumers with specialised online services needed to support the creation and consumer delivery of new BD Live features, sources say.

BERNSTEIN Research predicts that a quarter of US households will own a Blu-ray player by 2011. However, the analyst’s research revealed that the rate of Blu-ray adoption is lagging behind that of DVD when that format first came onto the market.

BLU-RAY sales IN THE UShave shot up by 351 per cent in the first three months of 2008, according to newly published research from Home Media Magazine. The trebling in Blu-ray sales saw consumer spend on home entertainment lifted by one per cent compared to the same period last year – an increase worth over $5.5 billion. According to the study, this marks the first rise in two years, with 2007 and 2006 experiencing a 0.5 and 0.4 percent decrease, respectively. Meanwhile, video sales rose by 2.3 per cent, although rental spending took a knock, ending the period down 1.6 per cent.

SONY and BenQ are planning to launch 22x DVD burners in July and the third quarter of 2008, respectively, according to industry sources in Taiwan, to compete with similar products from Samsung and LG. BenQ will have Lite-On IT, undertake ODM production of its 22x DVD burners, while Sony's will be produced by either Sony NEC Optiarc, a joint venture of Sony and NEC, or an ODM/OEM maker in Taiwan or South Korea, the sources indicated. Sony and BenQ were originally uninterested in offering 22x DVD burners because 22x models are more expensive than 18x or 20x models while blank 22x DVD+R/-R discs are not readily available, the sources pointed out, but have now decided to follow suit due to competition pressure.

THE pay-TV market in Western Europe is generally considered to be mature, but the increasing deployment of IPTV services will see the market enjoy a modest rate of growth in the number of households subscribing to pay-TV services, according to the research published by Analysys Mason. According to the report, ‘Pay TV in Western Europe: market sizings and forecasts 2005-2013’, the number of households subscribing to pay-TV services will increase at a CAGR of 3.2 per cent from 90.6 million in 2007 to 109.2 million by the end of 2013.

TOSHIBA is offering a new firmware update for customers who bought a HD DVD player. Version 3.0 should improve the network connectivity for supporting downloads of web-enabled network content on some HD DVD movies.

AACS LA has told magazine One to One that work on a set of final specifications and licences, including Managed Copy, is "continuing just as it has since the beginning". The comment comes in response to a Consumer Electronics Daily report that content licensing problems were stopping AACS from including Managed Copy, which had been considered mandatory for both HD DVD and Blu-ray, in the final specifications. AACS said: "Reports that Managed Copy has been dropped are in error."

LITE-ON announced the successor of the LH-2B1S Blu-ray drive. The DH-4B1S is a Blu-ray disc writer that writes BD-R media at 4x writing speed, which makes the device a time-saving and fast writer compared to its predecessor. To make its writing speed constant and stable, Lite-On added Constant Linear Velocity (CLV), which keeps the data transfer rate at 18MB per second during the whole session. At the end of May the DH-4B1S will be available across Europe and adds a new product to the company's Blu-ray portfolio.

A RECENTLY released earnings report from Viacom, the parent company of Paramount, has confirmed that the studio’s brief shift from format neutrality to HD DVD exclusivity last August was the result of a direct payoff, according to a report in Variety. The amount, which came from HD DVD backer Toshiba, is said to be $29 million, a sum that helped the company post a 22 percent increase in home entertainment revenue for that quarter. The payoff, long-rumoured, had never before been officially confirmed.

DISC manufacturing equipment Singulus Technologies said it has already received orders for 21 Blu-ray lines from Europe and Asia in the 1st quarter 2008. A first major order for Blu-ray was also received from the US. Since the settlement of the format dispute at the beginning of January 2008 and with the strategic acquisition of the Blu-ray Disc equipment operations from OERLIKON on 31 January SINGULUS has lifted its order forecast from 20 Blu-ray machines to about 30 machines for 2008. For the Blu-ray segment a market share of more than 65 % is targeted.

SAMSUNG and LG Electronics have both decided to end their production of combo HD DVD/Blu-ray players in an aim to cut costs to expand their market of next-generation storage. A Samsung Electronics' move cost the company 10 billion won ($9.5 million) as it had been increasing its budget for the combo player over the past two years. It has yet to calculate its full losses attributed to the withdrawal from HD DVD. LG Electronics will stop manufacturing the Super Blu series in the second half of this year. LG introduced its BH-100 Super Blu player during CES 2007 and more recently introduced its successor, the BH-200 Super Blu with full HD DVD compliance to carry the HD DVD logo. LG has been reported to have invested 11 billion won ($10.5 million) into its combo player business over the past three years.

DVD burners will continue to be the leading volume product until 2012, forecasts a recent IDC study, despite the ramp up of Blu-ray drives. "DVD burners will remain the bread-and-butter business for ODD vendors," said Wolfgang Schlichting, research director, Removable Storage at IDC. "Despite Blu-ray's win over HD-DVD in the format war, Blu-ray drive adoption will be limited in 2008 because of their high price and only moderate consumer interest." More than 100 million Blu-ray drives will ship worldwide in 2011, IDC forecasts. Until then DVD burners will continue their race to become a commodity market, with aggressive volume manufacturers driving down prices and pushing technology leaders out of the mainstream optical disc drive (ODD) market.

APPLE has announced that new movie releases from major film studios and premier independent studios are available for purchase from the iTunes Store on the same day as their DVD release. Movies purchased from iTunes can be viewed on an iPod with video, iPhone, Mac or PC, or on a widescreen TV with Apple TV.