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News in Brief

BY 2008, prices for Blu-ray Disc (BD) drives will drop 50% from current levels amid aggressive development by various related brands and makers, according to Shuji Minami, general manager, product business group of Sony NEC Optiarc. Minami also said the maker is not ruling out seeking new partners in Taiwan or placing more orders with existing Taiwan-based partners. Demand for BD drives are expected to be driven by full high-definition (HD) demand for 19-inch-and-above LCD monitors and the new Vista operating system (OS) from Microsoft in 2007, Minami indicated.

JAPAN's Recording-Media Industries Association (JRIA) predicts that global demand for write-once DVD discs will reach seven billion units in 2007 while supply for the discs will only reach 6.3 billion units, today's Chinese-language Economic Daily News (EDN) reported. JRIA also pointed out that demand for Blu-ray discs and HD DVD discs will grow to 10 million units, up from one million in 2006, according to the paper.

THE CONSUMER Electronics Association has cut its projections for sales of next-generation DVD players for 2006. In January, CEA predicted that more than 600,000 high-definition DVD players, worth $484 million, would be sold this year. Shipment delays and production problems have twice caused the organization to lower its forecast, and it now expects U.S. sales to reach only 200,000 players, worth $181 million, by the end of the year, thus costing CE companies over $300m in revenue.

HP has entered the high-definition optical disc foray, on the side of HD DVD. Their latest external drive, the HD100, can read HD DVD-ROM, DVDR/RW and R double-layer discs. It can also read CDR/RW and CD-ROM discs. The drives should be available in Europe mid-December with recommended retail pricing of around €580 and they will be bundled with Cyberlink playback software. The HD100 is actually a Lite-On device, but HP has been branding its products since early 2005.

NINTENDO HAS plans to release a new version of the Wii next year that will ship with a HD DVD player, according to industry rumours. quotes Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime as saying that Nintendo decided not to ship with high-definition capability when it launched on Sunday because it wanted to keep the cost down. However, his words indicate that it may have plans to release one in the future. Later next year Nintendo has plans to release a new version of the Wii and Gameinformer is speculating that this will be when the outfit will stick on the new drive.

THE MOTION picture industry will be closely watching sales of Disney's Cars on Apple's iTunes Music Store beginning next Tuesday when it goes on sale at the same time the DVD version hits retailers. The movie will be available for downloading for $12.99 for one week, lower than the wholesale price to DVD retailers. Apple's insistence that pricing of the downloads be kept low has been the main factor in keeping other studios from making films available via the iTunes store. Some retailers have informed the studios that they expect "a level playing field," maintaining that they don't mind lower pricing for online downloads if the same pricing is also available to them.

ACCORDING to online retailer, UK consumers are spending more than twice as much on HD DVD players and content than they are on Blu-ray competitor. The numbers are based on pre-orders made via the website. Hardware sales favour HD DVD 2:1, while content favours the Toshiba-led format 3:1. Price is likely to tilt the balance. is currently offering Samsung's BD-P1000 Blu-ray Disc player for £950 and Toshiba's HD-E1 HD DVD machine for £450. The numbers provide HD DVD with momentum going into Christmas. Whatever the merits of either format, HD DVD can take advantage of not only a much lower price than its nearest rival but also the breathing space allowed by the PS3's European delay.

TOSHIBA plans to launch its HD-DVD player in Australia in December this year. The HD-E1 will go on sale in the middle of the month and cost A$1,099 (US$845) and be followed in February by the HD-XE1, a higher-spec player that will cost A$1,599.The HD-DVD players will be available in Australia through Toshiba's authorized distributor, Castel Electronics Pty. Ltd.

SONY will delay the release of its Blu-ray HDTV DVD player, the BDP-S1, until early December. The device has already been delayed once, and rumours are that a "software issue" inside the device are the cause for the latest postponement. "We want to make sure that the end user has an enjoyable experience (with the player) when it is released," he said. The high-def DVD player was originally scheduled to launch in late spring. This date was then moved forward to late October, and now for the start of December. The retail price is expected to be $999, the same price as other Blu-ray players already on the market.

HEWLETT-PACKARD will next month ship its first internal DVD writer that not only burns at up to 18x speeds but also supports the LightScribe label etching system. Says who? Says Lite-on IT, the Taiwanese optical disc drive maker that manufacturers HP's drives. 18x "will" be HP's new writing speed standard, the PC giant's supplier has ruled. Dubbed the HPdvd940i, the drive records can handle all the major DVD and CD recordable and rewriteable formats. And DVD-RAM. It can also work with dual-layer media. And when you've burned your data, you can flip the disc over and write the label. The HPdvd940i is due to ship in November. Neither HP nor Lite-on provided a price.

MAXELL has announced that it will stop making DVD recordable media in its current plant in Japan, moving the production to other countries. The company plans to complete the transition to the new manufacturing plants by the Spring of 2007. Maxell said that the new plants will take advantage of the extensive quality control standards set by the curent Japanese R&D department, in order to offer high quality DVD recordable media. Maxell will continue to develop and produce optical media in its Recording Research Laboratory in Tsukuba, Japan, although the department will focus on the development of next generation optical storage media (BD and HD DVD).

SHARP announces a new Blu-ray and HD DVD laser diode with the lowest power consumption in the industry. The new Sharp GH04020A2GE semiconductor has a power consumption of 168mW and a 20mW output. The new Sharp Blu-ray laser diode has a 10,000 hour life time. The delay of the Sony PS3 in Europe is blamed on shortage of Blu-ray laser diodes. Sample shipments start 2006 November 1st and Sharp promises 150,000 laser diodes per month.