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News in Brief - september 2008


ACCORDING to a report from Home Media Magazine, studios are not the only real players in BD games. This time last year, studios accounted for more than 90% of the year's BD releases; independents accounted for only 15 titles against 142. This year sees a different picture: so far, studios have accounted for less than 70% of titles - 187 releases as opposed to 82 from indies.

MICROSOFT will soon be releasing the Windows Feature Package for Storage 1.0, loaded with a built in component that allows Windows users to perform master style burning on Blu-ray media. One of the new features is the Image Mastering API update for Blu-ray, which allows BD-R/RE burning without the need to install a 3rd party application.

VIDEO Entertainment 2008 home entertainment summit (22-23 October in Munich) has signed up John H. Marmaduke, President & CEO of Hastings Entertainment, as a keynote speaker, adding to a high calibre rostrum. Hastings Entertainment manages US-wide more than 150 superstores that sell DVDs, CDs, books, games and merchandising articles, as well as offering rental DVDs and games. Among other things, Marmaduke is on the board of the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), formerly known as VSDA. He will be reporting on the market strategies of a large trade chain. Contact www.video-entertainment.de

FALCON Technologies International LLC (FTI) has announced the start of BD mass production and deliveries from its facilities located in the United Arab Emirates. This, says the company, is the result of a strategic alliance and a co-operation programme with "a leading Japanese pioneer in the blue laser recording technology". Production started last July and capacity is expected to double by the end of September.

INDUSTRY-leading companies (Sony, Singulus Mastering and Technologies, Sibert and technotrans) have announced the formation of a workgroup that has defined a 'de facto' standard for BD stamper properties, and released a technical paper entitled 'Blu-ray Disc stamper physical characteristics'. The paper includes information on a range of topics including thickness variation, flatness, diameter, burr, eccentricity, roughness, and visual appearance. The need for this type of standard was recognised in the days of DVD, and the same situation has arisen with BD.

RITEK maintained their position as the biggest producer of Blu-ray discs outside of Japan, rising to third in the list of manufacturers after Panasonic and Sony. Ritek surpassed TDK to become the third largest maker of blank BD discs last quarter, after Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic) and Sony. In addition, Ritek was the largest maker of blank DVD+R/-R DL (single-sided double-layer) discs in the second quarter, occupying 30.53% of the global shipment volume, EDN noted.

ACCORDING to news source Digitimes, a local court in Taiwan recently announced its judgment that Princo, a Taiwan-based maker of blank optical discs, must pay Royal Philips Electronics a total of 2.354 billion yen ($21.1 million) for CD-R licensing. The fees are due for the period from Q4 1997 to Q4 1999, plus interest for delayed payment, according to Princo's filing with the Taiwan Stock Exchange (TSE) on 18 August. Princo has decided to appeal, the company stressed.

UNIVERSAL has officially announced the 21 October Blu-ray release of The Incredible Hulk, which will contain hours of exclusive features and BD-Live content. Promising to deliver options that will take advantage of the BD-Live connectivity, 'My Chat' will allow users to plug into their internet connection to chat with friends while watching the movie and conduct private screening discussions. In addition, 'My Scene Sharing' allows users to share favourite clips with friends. Other, as yet unannounced, features have been promised.

PARAMOUNT is making up for lost time in terms of Blu-ray sales, with Variety reporting that the studio will be offering a $10 rebate for customers who want to upgrade to Blu-ray. Only certain titles are part of the deal, include The Godfather and Transformers. To get the upgrade, customers will need to mail in a rebate certificate that is included with certain titles, along with proof of purchase tabs for both the DVD and Blu-ray movies.

FLEXPLAY, the 'Time-Limited DVD' is stepping up promotion after its initial splash nearly four years ago: North American Hudson Group will now be the exclusive retailer of Flexplay No-Return DVD Rental in airports and transportation terminals throughout the US and Canada, starting in September. The discs will be available in approximately 200 Hudson News newsstands and Hudson Booksellers bookstores in airports and terminals throughout North America.

MY Eye Media, a specialist in providing independent QC analysis and an entertainment industry leader in post-production technical services, announced it has joined the Blu-ray Disc Association as a general member. In February 2008, My Eye Media launched Blu-qual, a state-of-the-art BD testing solution.

SONY is betting on the long term future of Blu-ray with the development of a "Mega" disc changer holding 400 Blu-ray discs, DVDs and CDs. Currently a prototype, the Blu-ray Mega Changer is expected to be released in 2009 and support BD-Live as well as feature a RS-232C port for custom installs. Details are scarce, but the Mega Changer offers double the capacity of the Blu-ray disc changer displayed at last year's CEDIA show, whilst significantly reducing the size.

SO FAR about 15 million Blu-ray Discs have been sold, according to Home Media Magazine market research. Thus far in 2008, 8.8 million Blu-ray Discs have been sold, compared to 5.6 million in all of 2007. With Adams Media Research noting that about 60% of all software sales occur in the fourth quarter, optimism is high among studio executives that 2008 will end well for Blu-ray.

PROVIDING superfast broadband to all of Britain could cost as much as £29 billion, a new report says, although two-thirds of the country's population could be served at a cost of £5.1 billion. The report, issued by industry lobbyists the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG), said that while leading broadband suppliers such as BT and Virgin Media could make a profit on serving the majority of homes via fibre optics, the cost would be far higher to serve everyone.

MEDIAPLANT, Sweden’s only manufacturer of Blu-ray, DVD and CDs has appointed Staffan Wallhem as its new Managing Director. Wallhem has a vast experience coming from the Nordic film industry as MD of the Nordic film distributor Sandrew Metronome. Resigning Managing Director Thomas Mohlkert will remain in the company as head of legal & finance. He will also take on the position as Chairman of the Board from Robert Dawid who will remain as vice MD with responsibility for the company’s R&D.

EURO 2008 and The Olympics have generated a surge in the penetration of High Definition technologies throughout Europe, according to DEG Europe. Based on GfK Retail tracking, it is predicted that by the end of summer 2008, one third of European households will own HDTV displays. In spite of adverse economic conditions, software sales show a decline of only 2.6% in units and 2.8% in value compared with the first half of 2007.

FRENCH independent optical disc manufacturer MPO has been awarded the Blu-ray Association certification for the manufacture of single-layer Blu-ray discs (BD25). MPO manufactured its first Blu-ray discs at the end of August for its European clients, with over 20 titles already released. MPO claims to be the only independent BD replicator in Europe offering the entire production chain at its French manufacturing site – Blu-ray mastering, replication, AACS protection and automated packing.

THE total number of DVDs available by the end of the year is expected to pass 90,000 titles, according to the DVD Release Report. The tip sheet says a total of 90,440 titles are either in active release or are scheduled to be released by Dec. 31. Meanwhile, a total of 684 Blu-ray Disc titles are in release, with another 191 in the pipeline.

SAMSUNG has said that it sees the Blu-ray format only lasting a further five years before it is replaced by another format or technology. “I think it [Blu-ray] has 5 years left, I certainly wouldn't give it 10", Andy Griffiths, director of consumer electronics at Samsung UK told Pocket-lint in an interview. Citing online rental sites like LoveFilm's adoption of Blu-ray titles, the move to offer cheaper players and a now clear path to adoption following the Blu-ray HD DVD battle, Griffith says the format will be a winner, although not for long. Instead Samsung is putting its faith in its OLED technology.

SPEAKING at IFA, Taka Miyama, Sony’s product strategy manager for home video marketing in Europe told Electricpig: “Blu-Ray is the final format for the optical disc. We don’t have a shorter laser. In the future, if we have a physical media format, it will change physically. It won’t look like an optical disc. [...] I don’t know what sort of technology we will have in the future, but while using lasers and optical discs, this is the final format.”

JVC has just released its NX-BD3, the first DLNA enabled Blu-ray system. Digital Living Network Alliance (DNLA) is known as the standard for creating wired and wireless interoperable networks. There music, photos, videos and other sorts of content can be shared through consumer electronics and PCs. The system does not support Profile 2.0. The NX-BD3 is 1080p/24fps capable and supports v1.3 HDMI. Next October the NX-BD3 will go on sale for £750 in the United Kingdom.

IMATION has announced the first 6x Blu-ray recordable (BD-R) and Blu-ray recordable double layer (BD-R DL) media for the U.S. retail market. The company is also launching a full line of 'TDK Life on Record' Blu-ray disc cleaning and storage accessories to protect and maintain high-definition content on this new media format. TDK Life on Record Blu-ray 6x discs have the fastest recording speeds currently available in the U.S. market with data transfer rates of up to 216 Mbps -- equivalent to approximately 20x recordable DVD media. Burning 25GB BD discs at 6x can be done in 17 minutes -- approximately six minutes faster than a 4x BD-R.

DISPLAYSEARCH recently concluded that worldwide sales of Blu-ray players will hit 2.38 million this year. In 2007 a total of 700.000 Blu-ray players were sold, which means that compared to 2007 the amount tripled. The Sony Playstation 3 is also a Blu-ray player, but the console's sales were not included in the firm's study, meaning that if included, we can speak of several million players in 2008. DisplaySearch expects that the format's sales will double in 2009, with current estimates saying 5.31 million.