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Home Theater and Consumer Electronics News - February 2004

NOTE: This page is an archive for previously posted news stories from February 2004 - Since most of the links are now inactive, they have been removed. However, the headlines and summaries are still posted to historically document the news headlines from the dates listed.

Will Proposed HDTV "Flag" Make Your DSS/Cable Receiver Obsolete in 2005?
Hollywood always seems to have something to say about every politically correct cause under the Sun. However, the movie studios don't seem to have much regard for the consumer electronics industry or consumers of new HDTV products. Case in point: The FCC is considering a proposal, supported by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association Of America), for a copyright encryption scheme for HDTV broadcasting that may render current and future HDTV set-top boxes and future HD-capable recording devices useless. For more details on this important issue, check out the report from Audio Revolution.

Starting March 1st 2004, PBS increases its commitment to HDTV by launching the PBS HD Channel. This channel will broadast HD and Widescreen programming on a 24 hour, 7 day-a-week basis. The new channel will be available via over-the-air broadcast and through local cable systems that provide HD service. For complete details, check out the official press release from PBS, which has been reprinted with permission.

Sony Expands SACD Selection, Upgrades Systems, Receivers
Sony re-invigorates its audio and home theater line-up with a large number of new product introductions. New products include a larger selection of SACD/CD-only and SACD/DVD players, a home theater-in-a-box system with DVD recording capability, a DVD player with HD-upscaling via an HDMI interface, and lower priced AV receivers with 7.1 channel and multi-zone functioning.

Hollywood Hounds Asian Pirates
Although, officially, China honors foreign copyright laws, in practice copyright and trademark law enforcement in China is skimpy at best. This is especially illustrated by the many DVD counterfeiters operating in China. However, despite the obstacles, Hollywood has made some inroads in stopping Chinese counterfeit DVD movie distribution.

VOOM And Samsung Electronics Award Oscar Presenters With The Ultimate Home Entertainment Package
Presenters at this year's Oscar ceremony may get a better deal than the winners as Samsung will be "awarding" a 43-inch DLP HDTV and VOOM gives away a year of HDTV satellite service to each Oscar presenter. Some of the lucky celebrities include Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Angelina Jolie.

Blockbuster Targets Netflix
The enormous success of DVD rentals via mail as executed by Netflix and, to a lesser extent, by Walmart, has resulted in a stagnant walk-in DVD rental market for video outlets, such as Blockbuster. As a result, Blockbuster has announced plans to also enter the DVD rental-by-mail maket. For more details on Blockbuster's strategy, check out the report from Stereophile Guide To Home Theater

San Diego Padres To Televise Games In High Definition.
The San Diego Padres Baseball Franchise, in partnership with Cox Communication's San Diego cable operation, will televise 103 scheduled games in High Definition, which will be able to be accessed by local San Diego cable subscribers.

First 50 Inch HD Plasma Under $5,000 from V Inc.
V Inc is certainly doing its part to make Plasma Televisions more affordable as they introduce two models; the 50-inch HDTV-compatible Vizio P50HD, with an MSRP of $4,999 and the 42-inch EDTV Vizio P42 with its MSRP of $2,999. For more details, check out the report from Audio Revolution

Best Buy Lured By Chinese Market
Best Buy, already the largest consumer electronics retailer in the U.S. (and Canada, when you combine the Best Buy name with its Future Shop subsidiary), now has designs on the Chinese market as it makes a deeper commitment to procure more of its products from locally-based Chinese brand names to sell in its U.S. and Canadian outlets. In addition, Best Buy may also set into motion a plan to open future retail outlets in the rapidly transforming but still communist-based, freedom-restricted, country.

Court Rules DVD Burning Software Is Illegal
In a decision that has both far-reaching implications for both Hollywood and DVD consumers alike, Federal Court Judge Susan Illston of San Francisco handed down a decision that 321 Studios, maker of DVDxCopy, from selling its products. Judge Illston ruled based on her interpretation of current copyright law. 321 Studios must recall its products from store shelves within seven days of the ruling. DVDxCopy is a popular DVD burning software for PCs that allows users to make back up copies of commercial DVDs.

DVD Recorders Coming On Strong, Players Subsiding
DVD recorders are slowly, but surely, replacing standard DVD players on store shelves as prices fall and the units are incorporated in more combination products, such as home theater-in-a-box systems and DVD recorder/VCR combos.

PluggedIn: Lower-Priced Projection TV Outshines Plasma Hype
Although a growing number of consumers are laying down "big bucks" to buy the lastest Plasma televisions, most consumers are still put off by the high prices. As a result, sales of lower-priced HD-upgradable projection televisions have skyrocketed.

Thomson Introduces Expansive Family of RCA HDTV Sets, Monitors and Displays
Thomson/RCA takes their commitment to HDTV up a notch for 2004 with the introduction of an extensive new product line including nine Scenium projection sets utilizing DLP technology as well as Plasma, LCD, and Direct View units. For more details, check out the report from Audio Revolution

HDTV Stymied By Local Signal Issue
HDTV has made great strides in the past year, both in sales of HDTV products and in the increase of available programming for consumers. However, while a large number of television stations across the country are broadcasting HDTV over-the-air, in many cases, their signals are not being passed through local cable systems due to a lack of financial carry agreements between the local broadcast stations and cable operators.

VOOM Introduces 24/7 HDTV All-News Channel
Subscribers to the VOOM HDTV satellite service will now be able to see national news, sports, and weather coverage in High Definition 24 hours-a-day as VOOM launches HDN (HDNews).

Matsushita Planning New PDP Fabrication Plants
In an effort to meet rising consumer demand and also stay ahead of its competitors, Matsushita (parent of Panasonic), outlines an aggressive plan to open two additional Plasma Display Panel fabrication plants, one in 2005 and another in 2006. This would give the Japanese consumer electronics maker the ability to produce over 1.5 million Plasma screens annually.

Movie Industry Group Sues Over DVD Copying
In what is perceived as piracy of copyrighted material, the DVD Copy Control Association has filed a lawsuit against 3-2-1 Studios, makers of DVDxCOPY, alledging patent infringement of anti-copy technology in order to bypass it. DVDxCOPY is a popular DVD copy/backup program for use in PCs that allows complete copying of DVDs, including interactive menus and special features.

Execs Ponder 'next big thing' In Consumer Electronics
DVD didn't even exist ten years ago, but is now the hottest consumer electronics product ever, suprising even its inventors. However, the art of predicting the next hot product isn't always so easy, just ask Sony about Betamax, Pioneer about Laserdisc, and Circuit City about DIVX. Recently, a panel of executives from several major consumer electronics technology companies got together to try to pin down what the 'next big thing' will be for the consumer electronics industry.

Sanyo's Video Aspirations
Sanyo is a well-known brand name in mobile phones, video projectors, and budget-priced CRT televisions. Now, Sanyo wants a share of the home theater pie as it poises to pursue an aggressive plan for selling LCD TVs and DVD recorders in the U.S. market. For more details, check out the report from Home Theater Magazine.

Chapter 11 For Tower Records
Once THE place music fans thought of first when considering that recorded music purchase, the distinctive red and yellow sign of Tower Records may disappear from the retail landscape as the company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. For more details, check out the report from Stereophile Magazine.

Circuit City Closing 19 Stores
In a continuing effort to re-invent itself in the face of a rapdily changing competitive landscape, Circuit City will be closing some of its stores, relocating others, and building some new ones.

Where Is ED WOOD?
The DVD version of ED WOOD, although already available in both Region 3 (Korea/NTSC) and Region 2 (UK/PAL) for some time, has not been released in the U.S. (Region 1). This is an excellent film directed by Tim Burton, with its glorious B/W photography, and stellar performances by both Johnny Depp (Ed Wood) and Martin Landau (Bela Lugosi - for which he won a supporting actor Oscar), not to mention the excellent supporting cast, including Sarah Jessica Parker and Bill Murray.

The DVD was advertised in both the Best Buy and Circuit City ADs for Feb 3rd release and then was withdrawn from distribution indefinitely at the last minute (with many stores having to send back the shipments they already received), without adequate comment from Disney, who produced and owns the film.

This is a case of a tremendous marketing foul-up, with Johnny Depp, Tim Burton, and Bill Murray currently in the spotlight, fans of all three are being denied an excellent example of their work as well as being able to own a real DVD film treasure. This film would complement any home theater DVD library.

This fiasco is just another good reason to abolish DVD Region Coding!...Thank goodness I purchased the Region 3 version some time ago and own a code free DVD player to view it on!

For for information on this controversy, check out the reports from The Digital Bits.

As Newcomers Swarm, Sony Girds for a Fight
Sony, and other established Japanese electronics makers, once the big boys on the block, are now feeling growing competitive pressure from Chinese, Korean, and U.S.-based computer makers now grabbing a larger share of the consumer electronics landscape.

TIVO Watchers Uneasy After Post-Super Bowl Reports
Owners of TIVO found out this week that Janet Jackson's exposed breast was not only watched live by millions around the country and the World, but that it was also the most replayed TIVO recording to date. How do we know? It seems that the TIVO service is a two-way street; providing owners of the popular hard-disc video recorders an easy-to-use video recording system, while, at the same time, giving "TIVO Central" information about the recording and viewing habits of its owners. Some are concerned about TiVO owners' privacy rights. It seems that breasts weren't the only thing exposed during the Superbowl.

Compromises Made in CD/DVD-Audio Dual Disc...
The record industry is anxiously awaiting the introduction of the DVD-Audio/CD hybrid disc as a way of both boosting sagging CD sales and making the DVD-Audio format more accessible to the mainstream music fan. However, this could be a case of "Be careful what you wish for" as it appears that several compromises in both CD and DVD-Audio technology may be required for the new hydrid discs to be compatible with older CD players, particularly car CD players. For complete details, check out this important report from Audio Revolution.

Pioneer To Acquire NEC Plasma Business
In a move that will make Pioneer the World's largest plasma display maker and supplier to other consumer electronics companies, NEC has announced plans to sell its Plasma manufacturing facilities to Pioneer.

B&W Releases the Spherical Shaped PV1 Subwoofer
The Flat Panel Television has created a new emphasis on style as well as substance in home theater components, especially in loudspeaker design. No longer just wood boxes, Loudspeakers now come in all shapes and sizes, including the new spherical subwoofer from B&W. For more details (including a photo) of this unlikely take on subwoofer design, check out the report from Audio Revolution.

Key Consumer Electronics Parts In Short Supply
Even though the 2003 Christmas shopping season is now history, demand LCD panels and computer memory chips continue unabated. As a result, manufacturers are stretched to the limit trying to keep up with consumer demand. For more details, check out the report from Forbes.

Universal Music Promoting SACD and DVD-Audio
While more and more record labels are entering the Hi-Res audio market either committed to either SACD (Super Audio CD) or DVD-Audio, Universal Music Group (UMG) may be hedging its bets regarding the eventual successor to the standard CD, by releasing both SACD and DVD-Audio discs. For more details, check out the report from Audio Revolution

For additional News Stories check out my Home Electronics Industry News Archives.

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