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News in Brief

NEC announces a HD DVD drive for PCs at the IFA 2005. The HD DVD Drive HR-1100A will be shipping in limited numbers in November. The HD DVD drive can play HD DVDs with 2x speeds. It also supports current DVD formats and CDs. NEC developoed a special head that can read red an blue laser light. (German) reports that the HD DVD Drive will cost about €500 and ship with a movie software and HD movies. About 100 HD DVD movies are expected to be released in Europe this holiday season.

PHOCUS ELECTRONICS, a Dutch-based venture set up by computer-trade businessmen, plans to launch DVD recorder with an integrated 160 gigabyte hard drive into European chain stores for a retail price of €299. Phocus has shaken up the German market with cut-price flat-panel televisions. It says it would soon market a 82-cm plasma-screen TV for around €1,000 in a fresh challenge to brand-name manufacturers. CEO Winfried Hoffmann says manufacturing will be done in Turkey so products will enter Europe duty-free.

BLOCKBUSTER'S reported financial results for the second quarter ended 30 June 30 2005 show total revenues decreasing 1.6% to $1.40 billion for the second quarter of 2005 from $1.42 billion for the second quarter of 2004. Net loss for the second quarter of 2005 totaled $57.2 million compared with net income of $48.6 million for the second quarter of 2004. Adjusted net loss for the second quarter of 2005 totaled $40.2 million.

AT the German Games Convention, Microsoft revealed that consumers can get their hands on Xbox 360 — the most powerful and feature-packed next-generation video game and entertainment system — for as little as £209.99 starting this Christmas. For gamers who want to experience the ultimate digital entertainment thrill ride, Microsoft also announced a model with over £100 worth of accessories for £279.99, giving consumers the definitive entertainment experience at an unbelievable value right out of the box.

RITEK and CMC Magnetics will not be substantially hit by the reduced supply of DVD disc dye from Orgchem Technologies due to fire damage at Orgchem's factory on August 15, according to the two companies. Orgchem is currently the largest producer of dye for making optical discs in Taiwan, but CMC and Ritek mainly rely on dye produced by Mitsubishi Chemical, TDK and Fuji Photo Film, the two companies pointed out. Of the total material cost for DVD discs, dye accounts for about 10%, while optical-grade polycarbonate (PC) accounts for about 50-60%, the sources indicated.

BENQ plans to offer blue-laser format DVD-ROMs drives based on the Blu-ray platform in the first or second quarter of 2006, according to associate vice president Alpha Tsai for the company's Storage Business Unit.
Although the result of the competition between Blu-ray and HD DVD to set the industry standard for next generation optical drives has yet to be decided, BenQ is wagering on Blu-ray for the time being, Tsai indicated.

CMC MAGNETICS and Ritek are enjoying considerable profits from production of 8cm DVD discs for use in DVD camcorders, as few producers are able to make such discs and global demand is quickly growing, according to the two companies. A single-sided single-layer 8cm DVD+R/-R disc only has a capacity of 1.64GB, Ritek noted. However 8cm DVD discs can sell for as much as five times the price as standard DVD discs.

COMPUTER maker Apple has added enhancements to its Mac mini line such as the ability to burn DVDs with a SuperDrive for €723. The Mac mini also features built-in wireless networking with AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth starting at €621. The Mac mini with Super Drive allows users to create their own DVDs using iLife ‘05, Apple’s suite of digital lifestyle applications.

THIS YEAR Dolby will be exhibiting at IFA, the International CE fair taking place 2-7 September in Berlin. The company will demonstrate high-definition entertainment with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, as well as showcasing the latest implementations of Dolby technologies in selected products from consumer electronics manufacturers. The technologies bring immersive surround sound to music, movies, and games; in the home, in the car, and on the move.

PROBLEMS in the homevideo market led Pixar to disclose that total unit sales of the title last quarter have been reduced. After reporting in early May that the pic had sold 17.7 million units, animation studio said Thursday that returns in the quarter ended July 2 have actually lowered that total to 16.7 million. The company made just $2.2 million in revenue from the title last quarter, primarily for consumer products and pay-per-view. That compares to $7.7 million for 2003's Finding Nemo in the same time period. Pixar reported it sold 10.4 million units of The Incredibles overseas. Figure was below expectations, with sales particularly slow in France and Japan.

PHILIPS does not currently plan to lower its DVD+R/+RW disc royalty charge of $0.06 according to James Li, general manager of Philips Intellectual Property & Standards in Taiwan. Further, neither Ricoh nor the DVD+RW Alliance has the right to negotiate prices on its behalf. The Philips response comes just a week after the supposed negotiations of the DVD+RW Alliance with Taiwanese optical disc manufacturers, in order to reduce the DVD+R/+RW royalty charge from $0.06 to $0.04 per disc. Ricoh was the company that started the negotiations on behalf of the DVD+RW Alliance, the organization that promotes the DVD+R/+RW formats.