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May 26, 2005

Table of Contents

Glass Houses: Let’s Play Two—The Case for DualDisc
Nero To Support Layer-Jump Recording (LJR) of Dual-layer DVD-R Media
Alera Announces LightScribe-Equipped DVD/CD Duplicator
ARCHOS Introduces Mobile Digital Video Recorder
Western Digital Now Shipping Enterprise-Class 320GB Hard Drives
Universal Studios Film Footage Now Available for Licensing Exclusively at gettyimages.com
IOGEAR Introduces Digital KVM Vision
GarageBand.com Unveils Consumer Online Tool to Record, Mix, and Publish Podcasts

Glass Houses: Let’s Play Two—The Case for DualDisc

DualDisc. Finally, here's a format that has the potential to push music distribution into its next generation with a physical disc. That's good news for replicators, but even better news for consumers. Yes, there are some playback compatibility problems associated with the disc, and I will get into those, but let me first focus on the positive.

DualDisc, an audio CD and the data side of a DVD-5 bonded together, blends video and music successfully. Not only does it combine the audio and visual sides of an artist's creativity in a single product, but it gives consumers exposure to the awesome experience of 5.1 music, whether in the DVD-Video or DVD-Audio format. Let's face it: for all their sonic virtues, DVD-Audio and SACD have not delivered the 5.1 listening experience to the music mainstream, in large part because they don't work on players that music fans already have. DualDisc, by contrast, comes to the consumer in a natural way without forcing it down their throats and demanding the purchase of a new player.

Sony, unfazed by the lukewarm reception of SACD, is taking an all-or-nothing approach to advancing the format by offering certain titles only on DualDisc, while other labels are selling two SKUs. While I believe Sony is doing the right thing by offering titles in DualDisc format only for same price as a CD—since they're essentially adding value at no cost to the consumer--DualDisc purchasers who have had playability problems will disagree with me on that point I'm sure.

The problem is that some CD and DVD players and DVD drives cannot recognize the CD side of the disc because technically it is not compliant with the Red Book specification for audio CD; for one thing, the side of the bonded disc that a player is being asked to read is too thick, which makes it difficult for some lasers to focus.

That Sony would knowingly manufacture and sell CDs that don't meet CD standards seems a little strange perhaps if you consider that Sony, along with Philips, invented the compact disc and owns a half of the patent rights. (Philips has refused to allow DualDiscs to carry the Compact Disc Digital Audio logo, and Sony has placed a warning on the discs that they are out of spec and may not play in all players.)

Since the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) knew ahead of time that some players—computer DVD drives in particular--could pose a problem, it insisted on some ground rules for labels putting out DualDisc titles. In order to license the logo, the RIAA requires that the same music that is on the CD must be on the DVD side. (You can check out RIAAs licensing info at www.dualdisclicensing.org.) This certainly solves the problem for computer DVD drives: if someone can't play the CD side, all they need to do is flip it over. The DVD side will always play, and what's more—in addition to whatever video or informational content it includes--it will deliver the entire album in 5.1 surround sound if your system is so equipped.

While I couldn't get someone from Sony on the phone before deadline, Andrew DaPuzzo, director of audio sales at Sonopress, a replicator very involved with making these discs for several labels, was able to shed a little light on the reasons behind the specification and playback problems.

For the format to work in a compliant drive, the DVD Forum allows the DVD side of the disc to have a minimum thickness of .55 mm; at .61mm, it's just 1/100 of a millimeter thicker than a standard .6mm DVD side, so there's nothing compromised there. Essential to the construction of the disc, however, was a CD side that's too thin at .87mm (while a DVD is two halves bonded together, a CD laser is used to having the entire 1.2mm thickness of a CD to focus on). While the overall thickness of the disc at 1.48mm is at the far edge of acceptability for bonded DVD media and DVD players, the fact that the CD side is too thin means that in some players the CD read laser doesn't properly focus. (Incidentally, the format also confines the DVD side to single-layer.) While manufacturers report that about 539 of their tests have shown that the discs play in the "overwhelming majority" of players, they also acknowledge in some cases computers can present a problem, especially DVD drives.

Consumers see the situation somewhat differently. Today's online music forums are strewn with lengthy threads about playability problems with the latest run of DualDisc titles. They cite playback issues that reach beyond computer DVD drives into a variety of CD players, car systems in particular. One audiophile site, Positive Feedback Online (www.positive-feedback.com), reports that their research indicates a 60% playback rate of DualDiscs in CD players.

According to testing done by PMTC and Intellikey, out of the 35 car players in their testing pool, only one player had a problem playing the discs. Of course, that is not comforting to the person who owns that car system and can't play Bruce Springsteen's Devils & Dust disc, for example, which has generated the lion's share of the online griping. Unfortunately, there is no solution for that person (except downloading and burning the album from iTunes) because Sony's discs only have one SKU, that of the DualDisc.

Informal surveys done at retail stores by yours truly do not show any major return problems. A call to Fred Fox, executive vice president of merchandise and marketing for Transworld Entertainment, a large retailer whose stores include FYE and Strawberries, reports that there have been virtually no complaints. Universal Music Group's Director of New Formats, Paul Bishow also says the percentage of problems has been tiny and he suspects newer drives will not present as many problems. "Suspects" is the key word here.

Flipping the disc doesn't remedy all the problems for the discs' use with computer drives. "If you had planned to rip the CD to play it on your iPod," DaPuzzo says, "and that doesn't work, you won't be able to rip [the audio from] the DVD side." DaPuzzo says this problem can potentially be solved by putting secure WMA or AAC files or secure Apple files on the DVD so that they can then be downloaded to a user's hard drive. That way you wouldn't have to rip the CD file. But that's the manufacturers' decision to make, and at this point, they aren't doing it. While making the discs iPod-friendly would certainly uphold the principle of electronic Fair Use that Sony fought for and won in the Betamax decision of 1976 (for all the good it did them), part of the point here is to win back some of the iPod Nation who have abandoned packaged media by offering them benefits that iPods and other playback solutions for ripped and downloaded music can't deliver: DVD-quality video content, more extensive information about the artists, and 5.1 surround sound.

This, ultimately, is the tremendous upside of DualDisc for consumers, record labels, and replicators alike: they provide a reason to buy packaged, physical media to a music-buying populace that's very nearly learned to live without it. While the mass migration to personal audio players and electronic music distribution has arguably not been as bad for the record labels as they claim, there's no question it's hurt replicators. Though the move to iPods and iPod-like devices has leveraged significant technological advances, it's also caused the music-buying public to stagnate, or even move backwards in terms of the audio quality they accept and find acceptable, even as the emergence of 5.1 has pushed the envelope for others in terms of what they hear and the ways they hear it.

While the marginal market performance of DVD-Audio and SACD may indicate that 5.1's appeal is confined to a small audiophile elite, one could just as easily argue that by requiring special player purchases, those formats never gave 5.1 a proper chance to win over the music mainstream. DualDisc may not be the industry's last chance to convert the masses, but it's probably its best one. I would never say that selling out-of-spec CDs was a good thing. But if playback problems force some consumers to put aside their iPods, flip their new discs over, and start hearing them in 5.1, maybe they'll finally find out what they've been missing.

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Nero To Support Layer-Jump Recording (LJR) of Dual-layer DVD-R Media

Nero has announced that its applications, Nero Burning ROM and Nero Express, now support Layer-Jump Recording (LJR) of dual-layer DVD-R media, thus permitting multi-session burning, improved read compatibility, and a memory capacity of up to 8.5GB.

Layer-jump recording (LJR) now provides multisession burning of dual-layer DVD-R media. In other words, data can be added to a disc over several burning sessions, with the sessions appearing in the sequential order in which they were originally recorded. Both Nero and the burner manufacturer's firmware previously only supported disc-at-once (DAO) mode, meaning data could be written to a DVD-R only one time.

Unlike dual-layer recording, in which data is first written to one layer and then to the other, layer-jump recording alternates between both layers during the burning process, thereby evenly distributing the data between both layers. The written area of both layers expands evenly outwards with each burning session. This means adjacent layer areas always contain data, resulting in a reduction in background noise and better signal quality. This, in turn, leads to higher read compatibility, even on DVD-ROM drives, according to Nero.

OEM customers can download an update online through the Nero Web site available mid-June.

www.nero.com

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Alera Announces LightScribe-Equipped DVD/CD Duplicator

Alera Technologies has announced a new DVD/CD duplicator with LightScribe technology that Laser burns labels directly on DVD/CD discs. The 1:1 DVD/CD Copy Cruiser Pro LS  enables users to create their own custom labels, with text and graphics, using software included with the unit. "

The 1:1 DVD/CD Copy Cruiser Pro LS (Aleratec Part No. 260148, Ingram Micro SKU No. G24457) has an MSRP of $399. To print labels you simply place LightScribe certified media with the label side down in the recorder, attach the DVD/CD Copy Cruiser Pro LS to your PC and burn any label you have created.

The DVD/CD Copy Cruiser Pro LS incorporates 16x DVD recording technology and can function as a 1:1 DVD/CD Duplicator or an external USB 2.0 DVD/CD Recorder. The 1:1 DVD/CD Copy Cruiser Pro LS has a 7" x 11" footprint and weighs less than 12 pounds.

The full line of Aleratec DVD and CD recording solutions, duplication solutions, and accessories is featured at 4SURE.com, AAFES, Adorama, Amazon.com, B&H Photo Video, Best Buy, Buy.com, CDW, CompUSA, Global Computer, Insight, J & R, Mac Connection, MacMall, Mac Warehouse, Micro Center, NewEgg.com, Office Depot, PC Connection, PC Mall, PC Nation, Quill, QVC, Sears, Target, Tech Depot, Videoguys, Wolfe's, X10.com, and Zones, in addition to other leading retailers. Government and Education customers may purchase from Government and Education Specialists including AAFES, CDW-G, CompuCom, Daly Computer, EnPointe, Fed Tek, GCI, GE IT Solutions, GovConnection, GOVPLACE, Green Pages, GTSI, Horizon, Insight Gov, Manchester, Northern NEF, PC Mall Gov, Pomeroy, Sarcom, Shi.com, TIG and Unisys. All products are available to resellers through Bell Microproducts, DBL Distributing, Ingram Micro, Ingram Micro Canada, and SED International.

www.aleratec.com

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ARCHOS Introduces Mobile Digital Video Recorder

ARCHOS has introduced the new AV 700 Mobile Digital Video Recorder (DVR), which combines the mobility and wide screen of a portable DVD player with the video recording and scheduling features of a digital video recorder. The ARCHOS AV 700 enables direct video recording onto a 100GB hard drive, which makes up to 400 hours of video or 250 movies available for viewing. The AV 700 will be available for purchase at retail and from the ARCHOS Web site beginning in June 2005.

The AV 700 enables consumers to get content from the TV, DVD Player, VCR, cable box, or satellite receiver onto their devices without using a computer. In addition to direct video recording, the AV 700 enables consumers to schedule recordings in advance or while they're away, and view them on a bright, 7" LCD wide screen display. The combination of the video recording, scheduling, hard drive capacity, wide screen. and other features -- such as music and photo playback and gaming applications -- make the AV 700 suitable for families, travelers, gadget enthusiasts, and others.

The ARCHOS AV 700 Mobile DVR lets users digitally record TV programs and movies directly from TV, VCR, DVD player, cable box or satellite receiver using the new ARCHOS TV Docking Pod. The new Docking Pod attaches to the AV 700 and connects directly to each video source, allowing TV shows and movies to be recorded easily onto the device. The AV 700 encodes in and plays back MPEG-4 videos with MP3 stereo sound. The AV 700 also allows users to transfer home movies onto the device using the USB Host port connected to a camcorder.

With the AV 700, users can also schedule recordings for the week or month ahead, just as they would with a standard DVR. Once programs are scheduled on the device, the integrated AV 700 Scheduler controls the tuner inside the VCR, cable box, or satellite receiver to automatically adjust the channel and record based on the time and duration of the schedule.

The AV 700 is available in 40- and 100-gigabyte models, allowing storage of between 160 and 400 hours of video, 250 movies, 55,000 songs or one million photos. The AV 700 has a USB Host port, enabling users to connect to a range of mass storage devices -- including digital cameras, card readers, USB keys and portable hard drives -- and transfer files directly from device to device.

With the introduction of the AV 700 Mobile DVR, ARCHOS and Buy.com will launch an extensive promotion featuring an ARCHOS store on the Buy.com Web site, online and email advertising, and a free battery ($49.95 MSRP) with the purchase of an ARCHOS AV 700 from Buy.com.

The ARCHOS AV 700 Mobile DVR will be available in June 2005 at major retailers worldwide and from the ARCHOS web site at www.archos.com. Pricing for the AV 700 is $599.95 and $799.95 for the 40-gigabyte and 100-gigabyte models, respectively.

The AV 700 comes standard with a TV docking pod, AV cables, remote control, protective case, headphones, USB 2.0 cable, USB host cable adapter, and power adapter. Optional accessories include a back-seat car holder, double headphone kit, travel kits, additional docking pod, USB mini game pad, additional batteries, and other add-on products.

www.archos.com.

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Western Digital Now Shipping Enterprise-Class 320GB Hard Drives

Western Digital has announced it is increasing the capacity of its enterprise-class WD Caviar RE hard drives by nearly 30%, continuing to provide solutions for high-capacity enterprise storage. WD Caviar RE drives spin at 7,200RPM, are equipped with either Serial ATA (SATA) or EIDE interfaces, and are now available in capacities up to 320GB.

Requiring affordable, high-capacity, reliable storage, IT professionals have previously utilized desktop-class drives in demanding, multi-user environments -- an application for which these drives are not designed. Addressing this customer need, WD optimized high-capacity 7,200 RPM drives with technology that increases reliability and multi-drive-system compatibility.

WD Caviar RE drives feature Time Limited Error Recovery (TLER), which helps prevent drive fallout caused by standard extended desktop hard drive error-recovery processes. By addressing the differences between single-user and multi-user workloads, WD Caviar RE drives implement RAID-specific TLER, which improves drive compatibility with RAID controllers, according to Western Digital, which improves system reliability.

WD Caviar RE drives also feature one million hours MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure), Western Digital reports, offering systems builders and storage system manufacturers high reliability in high-duty cycle applications, where continuous performance is essential.

WD Caviar RE hard drives are currently shipping in volume and are available through Western Digital's distribution network. Estimated street pricing for WD Caviar RE 320GB capacity with SATA interface (model no. WD3200SD) is $229 USD and WD Caviar RE 320 GB with EIDE interface (model no. WD3200SB) is $219 USD.

http://www.westerndigital.com/products.

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Universal Studios Film Footage Now Available for Licensing Exclusively at gettyimages.com

Universal Studios and Getty Images have announced that footage from Universal Studios Film Library is now available for licensing exclusively at www.gettyimages.com/universalstudios.

Creative and production professionals now have immediate online access to footage from such films as The Bourne Identity, Field of Dreams, Backdraft, Apollo 13 and The Mummy. The collection of subject matter - all shot on 35mm or Super 35mm and transferred from the original camera negative to High Definition - includes fires, explosions, stunts, and special effects, along with popular categories such as nature, military and business. Universal Studios is the first major motion picture studio to have its footage searchable via its own "front door" on a leading imagery site.

www.gettyimages.com/universalstudios

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IOGEAR Introduces Digital KVM Vision

IOGEAR has launched the Digital Video Interface (DVI) Keyboard Video Mouse and Peripheral (KVMP) Switch with audio and USB peripheral sharing capabilities. It allows users to access multiple computers from a single keyboard, mouse, and DVI display, and is available in two- and four-port models.

The DVI connectors enable computer connections with corresponding video cards to help mange the systems using a single DVI monitor -- such as a flat-panel or plasma display, data projector or digital TV and set-top box -- for high-resolution computing. With USB emulation, all computers can boot simultaneously without delays during switching. Users can add external hard drives, printers, or other peripherals and use them when connected to any system.

Due to the unit's independent switching feature, users can alternate between various systems without interrupting the audio and peripherals plugged into the USB ports. For example, a user can initiate a print job on one unit and can, before it's completed, switch to the next system while the print job continues. At the same time, MP3 music can be stored on another computer, without any interruption.

The DVI KVMP Switch is hot pluggable and fully compliant with both DVI and USB 1.1 specifications. It supports file transfer rates of up to 12Mbps, features an LED display for easy status viewing and Auto Scan mode for monitoring all computers. The Switch is both Mac and PC compatible.

IOGEAR's DVI KVM Switch is priced at an MSRP of $249.95 (two-port) and $349.95 (four- port) and is available immediately from all major catalog resellers, online resellers and selected retail outlets. The Switch also comes with IOGEAR's standard three-year warranty.

www.iogear.com

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GarageBand.com Unveils Consumer Online Tool to Record, Mix, and Publish Podcasts

GarageBand.com announced GarageBand Podcast Studio, a Web-based tool to record, mix and publish podcasts. This new tool also offers consumers greater access to GarageBand.com's 40,000 active podcasts.

For artists, GarageBand Podcast Studio provides a simple way to license and distribute their music to podcasters. For podcasters, recording, mixing, and publishing become as easy as pointing and clicking. For subscribers and listeners, GarageBand Podcast Studio provides easier ways to access podcasts for free, without an iPod or special software.

With thousands of bands posting new music every day, GarageBand.com hosts a large catalog of podcast-ready music, now enhanced with "one-click publishing" to add a track to users' own podcasts.

The new GarageBand Podcast Studio enables users to create podcasts. Users can upload their own recordings and mix them with music from the GarageBand.com catalog using a point-and-click Playlist Manager. Once a new playlist is published, it is immediately available to listeners for streaming, download, and subscription from GarageBand.com's servers. Hosting is free and GarageBand.com intends to support the creativity of podcasters with advertising, as well as offer premium ad-free options in the future.

As a result of a new service developed with Tellme Networks, the GarageBand Podcast Studio will soon feature an option to record by phone. Podcasters can save their telephone recording for mixing later, or immediately publish their podcast by phone without ever touching a computer.

GarageBand Podcast Studio is available for free at www.garageband.com.

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