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News in Brief

TELECOM operator BT has announced that its national next-generation TV service will be called BT Vision. The world-first service, combining digital terrestrial TV with on-demand film, TV and music programming, as well as interactive services will be launched in the Autumn. The service will combine access to digital terrestrial channels through the aerial with broadband-powered video on demand. This unique combination, delivered on a software platform powered by Microsoft and through a set-top box made by leading manufacturer Philips, will allow customers choice, control and convenience. Unlike other pay-TV services, there will be no mandatory monthly subscription.

WARNER Home Video, which had set 28 March as the launch for its HD-DVD movies has said it’s delaying the release of movies in the HD-DVD format because of technical problems and raised concerns that there will be little software for the players in this high-definition to play when they become available at the end of this month.

ABBEY ROAD Interactive, the new media facility based at London's Abbey Road Studios, has joined Sonic Solutions's High Definition Authoring Alliance (HDAA). Abbey Road's membership gives them immediate access to Sonic's pioneering tools for high-definition video and audio encoding and comprehensive Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD authoring systems that include tools for advanced interactivity (BD-J and iHD). The charter of the alliance is to help increase momentum for the successful introduction of the new DVD formats and ensure the timely availability of quality titles by providing members exclusive access to key information, HD-enabled tools, and comprehensive training.

A CHANNEL Isles tax loophole that allows companies to sell VAT-free goods such as CDs and DVDs online to the UK is slowly tightening. Both Jersey and Guernsey have said they will clamp down on companies such as Amazon, HMV and Tesco that use the Channel Islands as a base to sell goods worth less than £18 to UK consumers. These retail giants have picked up a large chunk of the online DVD and CD market as UK consumer reap the benefit of cheaper prices. HMV is reportedly selling a massive 100,000 VAT-free CDs to the UK a week through its website.

TOSHIBA has unveiled the first high definition laptop computer with a HD DVD optical drive for the new generation of DVD disks and a high resolution display. It will retail for between €2,500 and €3,500 and will be available in within a few weeks, said Oscar Koenders, European computer marketing manager at Toshiba.

AN internal memo allegedly from LG’s U.S. sales VP Bob Perry says the company is planning to ship a disk player compatible with both Blu-ray and HD DVD in the late summer or early autumn. In the memo, Perry also said LG’s BD199 Blu-ray player, which we saw the company demonstrating at CES in January, won’t ship as planned this spring because of “uncertainty in this early stage of the market for prerecorded high-definition optical disks.” LG is one of those companies that swings both ways with the new HD discs; it signed up with the HD DVD team as well as the Blu-ray group. (source:

MEDIA-TECH Association will partner with the HVD Alliance for a seminar presentation on Holographic Versatile Disc (HVD) at the upcoming MEDIA-TECH Expo May 30/June01 in Frankfurt. Experts from the field will introduce this new optical storage technology offering capacities of up to 3.9 terabyte. Hideyoshi Horimai, Chief Technology Office of Optware Corporation, the inventor of HVD will also speak at the seminar during the Expo. The new format uses a technology called Collinear Holography, which employs two lasers collimated in a single beam.

RESEARCHERS have published a report etestimating that Microsoft will sell greater-than-anticipated amounts of its Xbox 360 console, eclipsing even the company's own sales estimates. The system looks likely sell 6 million units by the end of June 2006, and from 10 to 12 million by the end of the year. Senior analyst P.J. McNealy of American Technology Research says the numbers exceed those given by Microsoft corporate VP Peter Moore, who outlined a goal of 4.5 to 5.5 million systems sold by June at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show, though McNeely's estimates remain in line with previous estimates of the system's first-year goal of 10 million units.

CONSUMERS are increasingly looking to replace their old VCRs as well as play-only DVD players with DVD recorders, driving annual sales across the US and Europe to 50 million by 2010, according to the latest research by Strategy Analytics. The DVD recorder is potentially much more than a simple VCR replacement, since the addition of a hard disk drive can transform it into a digital video recorder (DVR). But manufacturers and component suppliers are finding that product specification complexities can slow market adoption and reduce customer satisfaction.

ACCORDING to informed sources, the HD DVD recorders Toshiba plans to launch in Japan in May will be equipped with hard disk drives and are set to be priced at ¥200,000 to 300,000 ($1,728 to $2,592). It plans to sell 50,000 units by the end of the year.

SONY Pictures Entertainment plans to roll out 20 DVD movies that support the Blu-ray standard sometime in March or April. The exact launch date of these movies will depend on the launch schedule for the first DVD player to support the Blu-ray standard, according to a report in the Chinese-language Commercial Times. Sony expects to introduce a total of 150 DVD movies playable at the Blu-ray standard in 2006.

A NEW unit to tackle the multi-million-pound trade in pirated films is being launched today by senior police officers. The 12-month pilot project will target the networks illegally supplying and distributing DVDs being sold at pubs, markets and street corners and via the internet. It is being created by the Metropolitan Police in partnership with the Federation Against Copyright Theft. A survey for the British Video Association estimated the trade in pirated DVDs was worth £300 million a year.