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June 21, 2005

Table of Contents

Glass Houses: Is There a Future for Holographic Discs?
Nero Compression Codec Now Available as Free 30-Day Trial Version
Miraizon Releases New Versions of Cinematize 2
TDK Premieres “Batman Begins” CD-R Media
Strategy Analytics Predicts First Decline in DVD Player Revenues
Digigami Ships Statistical and Comparative Picture Quality Analysis Software for Standard and HD-DVD
The DVD Recorder Market Doubled in Size in 2004 and Will Grow by 87% in 2005, Researchers Say
ATI Technology to Drive Limited Edition Racing Notebook PC
Macrovision Sues Interburn and Sima Over Alleged Copyright Protection Crack

Glass Houses: Is There a Future for Holographic Discs?

New formats galore. Great news for columnists, but not so good for the industry. In one sense, the more new physical media formats we have, the more the world will need physical media manufacturers. But will the new formats help keep the physical media industry alive, or actually help us shoot ourselves in the foot?

While I write about these formats all of the time, I can tell you that people outside the industry, like my husband and my friends, are not exactly waiting with bated breath for the next format to roll off the line. Stepping outside my columnist role and speaking as a consumer myself, I think that the new blue laser formats, Blu-ray and HD DVD, with no audio spec as yet, stand to mess up the music industry yet again—at least from the consumer's perspective. Someday, maybe the folks who claim all these format patents will realize that "letting the market decide" is the last thing the "market" (i.e., the consumer) really wants.

Also in the good news/bad news category, just as the industry prepares for another format war as Blu-ray and HD DVD begin their push to the mainstream, along comes holographic media, which some insiders think will render the "Blu-ray or HD DVD?" question moot. Industry analyst Julie Schwerin, founder and CEO of Infotech (www.infotechresearch.com), thinks holographics might be the way to go. She pointed me in the direction of two leading-edge companies, InPhase and Optware, to explain how holographic discs work and why they might prove a better solution than either Blu-ray or HD DVD.

With holographic techniques, over one million bits of data are stored as an interference pattern or hologram with one 2ms exposure from the laser. Bits get stored on media in a holographic interference mode as opposed to a bit on an aluminum substrate mode, as with pressed CDs, DVDs, BD-ROMs, and HD DVDs. InPhase and Optware accomplish the results in different ways.

InPhase (www.inphase-tech.com) uses one laser beam which is split into the reference and data beams. The two beams traverse separate paths, recombining at the recording spot. InPhase's first product is a drive built to read 300GB holographic media—using standard-diameter 120mm discs--that will come to market in 2006. That is followed by an 800GB drive, and then a 1.6TB drive in 2009, all using blue 407nm lasers. Compare that to the proposed Blu-ray and HD DVD specs, which currently top out (best-case) at 100GB and 45GB, respectively.

InPhase's Liz Murphy says the company's holographic product family is focusing on the commercial market initially, offering replicated but not recordable media for industrial-level users. InPhase has three different types. One, available since 2002, is sensitive to green lasers; another, which started shipping last year, is designed for use with blue lasers. The third media format, now in development for consumer devices, is sensitive to red lasers, with wavelengths between 675 and 700nm .

An Optware (www.optware.co.jp) spokesperson says the company offers a three-dimensional storage layer which is split in two directions. One goes straight ahead, and the other bounces off an object that is then bounced back to the same spot on the film as the original beam. They both hit at the same time.

Optware uses co-axial light ray so that the reference and data beam travel the same optic path and can be very rugged. The company claims it can store 200GB on a 120mm DVD size disc, which they call HVD (holographic video disc). Next year, they expect to be storing a terabyte on a disc that size. They will begin alpha testing in the fall.

Replicators had little to say about the possibility of skipping blue lasers completely. They think it's an interesting possibility, but until there is real-world holographic product, the replicators I spoke with declined to go on record with a quote. A couple of U.S. manufacturers who have been burned before with formats they wholeheartedly embraced such as MiniDisc, Digital Compact Cassette, and CD-I, told me that not only are they not thinking of jumping ahead to holographic, they're also reluctant to move to blue laser formats because their customers are not asking for it, and they don't feel the market wants it. While there has been some hint that the patent holders for HD DVD and Blu-ray may reach a compromise before their products really hit the market and two blue laser products may eventually come to market as one (as was the case with DVD), many replicators swear that can't happen this time.

After I championed DualDisc last month as a breakthrough format that offers enough upside to offset initial compatibility concerns, you might think it hypocritical to put down video-oriented product that will push consumers toward HD just as DualDisc propel them into the exciting world of 5.1 surround. But I'll leave you with this question to ponder. While the music industry—and the CD and DVD manufacturing side of it in particular--needs something new to combat downloading, what does the video industry need, and what do its consumers really crave? Too much too soon, or too little too late will confuse the market and put off the consumer, making physical media obsolete long before its time.

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Nero Compression Codec Now Available as Free 30-Day Trial Version

Nero has announced the availability of a 30-day free trial version of its audio/video compression codec, Nero Digital.

The free 30-day trial bundle of Nero Digital includes three Nero applications: Nero Recode 2 CE, which allows users to create Nero Digital content; Nero ShowTime 2 CE, which allows users to play back Nero Digital content; and Nero MediaHome CE, which allows users to share Nero Digital content with any UPnP or DLNA-compliant consumer electronics device, and to PCs and laptops in home networks.

The free 30-day trial bundle of Nero Digital lets the user experience technologies like MPEG-4 AVC/H.264. Already adopted as a mandatory codec for next generation HD-DVD and Blu-ray standards, AVC/H.264 is set to have a major impact in the future of video broadcasting and content distribution.

Nero Digital is a complete audio/video codec solution--based on the MPEG-4 standard, but engineered for increased quality and speed. It delivers DVD-quality at a compression far greater than MPEG-2, increasing the capacity of a DVD by factor 5 and higher, according to Nero. Nero Digital videos can be played back on PCs running the Nero Digital codec and on certified Nero Digital consumer electronic devices.

Nero Digital, co-developed by Nero and Ateme, is completely based on industry standard MPEG-4 Video (MPEG-4 SP/ASP and AVC/H.264) and MPEG-4 Audio (LC AAC, HE AAC and PS AAC) compression technologies, allowing the flexibility to play other popular MPEG-4 compliant content, yet offering interactive features in high audio and video quality.

To continue the Nero Digital experience after the trial period, users can upgrade to Nero 6--an all-in-one digital media solution offering more than 16 applications.

www.nero.com

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Miraizon Releases New Versions of Cinematize 2

Miraizon has announced that new versions of its flagship product Cinematize, the DVD movie clip extractor, are now available for both the Macintosh and Windows operating systems. The latest versions, Cinematize 2.04 for Macintosh and Cinematize 2.01 for Windows, provide some new features as well as fixes. The new features in both versions include improved handling of complex and non-standard DVDs and user interface improvements, according to Miraizon.

In addition, Cinematize 2.04 for Mac is now fully compatible with the new Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger as well as QuickTime 7. The Windows version now includes full Japanese language localization. A complete list of new features and fixes, free trial software of the new versions, and updaters for existing customers are available at www.miraizon.com/support/downloads.html.

Running on both the Macintosh and Windows operating systems, Cinematize 2 allows users to extract audio and video clips off of any unencrypted DVD and save them in formats compatible with standard multimedia editing software such as QuickTime, iMovie, and Final Cut for Macintosh, and Premiere, Windows Movie Maker, and QuickTime for Windows.

With Cinematize 2, users can extract clips as short as a fraction of a second or as long as a complete movie. Since its release, thousands of customers have used Cinematize to incorporate DVD clips into their PowerPoint and Keynote presentations, to create movie highlights collections, to edit recorded TV programs, or to create audio clips for CDs, iPods, and iTunes, according to Miraizon. More details on the many features and applications of Cinematize can be found at www.miraizon.com/product.

Priced at $59.95, the downloadable versions of Cinematize 2 for Windows and Macintosh can be purchased from the company web site at www.miraizon.com. Users of previous versions of Cinematize 2 can download updaters free of charge. The boxed version of Cinematize 2 for Macintosh is available from the company Web site and through major resellers including CompUSA, Apple Store, Fry's Electronics, Micro Center, J&R, Small Dog Electronics, Tekserve, MacMall, and Amazon.com, as well as through other local Apple specialist stores. The boxed version of Cinematize 2 for Windows will be available soon. The MSRP for the Macintosh boxed version is $69.95.

www.miraizon.com

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TDK Premieres “Batman Begins” CD-R Media

In conjunction with the June 15 release of Batman Begins from Warner Bros. Pictures, TDK is premiering its Batman Begins CD-R discs featuring label-side designs inspired by the film.

Batman Begins CD-R discs can give users' digital photos, games, music, and data files a twist while offering the performance, reliability, and durability of other TDK blank media.

By offering special edition Batman Begins CD-R discs featuring unique label-side designs, TDK is providing Batman fans, comic book buffs, and CD recording enthusiasts with collectibles for years to come with five different label-side designs. Batman Begins CD-R discs are rated for 52X recording and can store 80 minutes of audio or 700MB of data.

TDK's new Batman Begins CD-R media are currently available in 10-disc slim packs at an estimated street price of $9.99.

www.tdk.com

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Strategy Analytics Predicts First Decline in DVD Player Revenues

Global DVD player revenues will fall for the first time ever this year, according to research from the Strategy Analytics Connected Home service. Retail revenues in 2005 will fall by 1 percent to $19.8 billion, after peaking at $20.1 billion in 2004. Higher-value DVD recorders are beginning to replace players, but this trend will not prevent a continued fall in overall revenues.

Worldwide sales of DVD recorders rose to 8.9 million units in 2004, generating $4.8 billion in retail revenues. DVD recorder sales will continue to grow rapidly, overtaking play-only devices in 2008 and reaching annual sales of 90.9 million units in 2010, according to Strategy Analytics. The U.S. market is trailing both Europe and Japan in adoption of DVD recorders, in part reflecting faster U.S. adoption of set-top box DVRs.

DVD recorders that are integrated with a hard disk drive dominate the Japanese market, and this trend is expected to spread to other regions. This feature enables timeshifting as well as television program archiving in one device.

Further information on this report, "DVD Players and Recorders: Global Market Forecast," is available at www.strategyanalytics.com/press/PR00182.htm.

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Digigami Ships Statistical and Comparative Picture Quality Analysis Software for Standard and HD-DVD

Digigami is now shipping MPressionist.X Pro HD 3.0 for Macintosh, offering new tools for both high-definition (HD) and standard-definition (SD) MPEG statistical and comparative picture quality and bitstream analysis.

The frame-difference analysis features of MPressionist Pro HD make possible a reliable and scientific approach to DVD picture quality, according to Digigami. In addition to "per-pixel difference/delta" analysis, the comparative features of version 3 also include side-by-side split monitor analysis for comparing the actual moving picture.

Not only can users compare the source material with a compressed version, they can also bring up two different compressed movies and perform a subjective left/right comparison by watching the versions in sync. Such a feature is useful for determining if compressing a movie with a reduced bitrate has significantly impacted picture quality.

Users can also compare movies compressed with different codecs (such as HD-DVD H.264 and MPEG-2). Again, for DVD authoring professionals attempting to make informed production decisions (for instance, whether to replicate DVD-5 or a dual-layer format), the new tools in MPressionist provide feedback to help them make good decisions.

MPressionist Pro HD can help users meet the expectations of consumers whose notion of quality has been shaped by Hollywood feature films, many of which make low demands (24fps) on the DVD compression standard. By comparision, 30fps interlaced camcorder footage is much more difficult to shoehorn into the DVD specification. This key technical point alone provides a production challenge to independent producers. By integrating MPressionist into your production planning, the independent is granted the edge afforded by multi-pass interactive MPEG encoding, which the major studios have been using since the inception of the DVD as a consumer format.

Specifications and screen captures of the product in use are available on the product's web page. The MPressionist.X Pro 3 is now available in two configurations, starting at $239.76. Mpressionist.X Pro 2.0 customers can upgrade for free to 3.0 or to the HD version for just $99. Site licenses, educational, and volume discounts are available.

www.digigami.com/mpressionist/

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The DVD Recorder Market Doubled in Size in 2004 and Will Grow by 87% in 2005, Researchers Say

Research and Markets has announced the addition of a report entitled "DVD Players, Recorders, and the Next Generation" to their offering of market analysis.

DVD recorders are beginning to drive the market for non-PC DVD hardware, a trend that keeps the overall global DVD hardware market on the rise. The DVD recorder market (not including units connected to PCs) doubled in size in 2004 and will grow by 87% in 2005, according to Research and Markets. In 2004, Japanese DVD player shipments declined, while DVD recorder sales grew by over 100%.

The report, "DVD Players, Recorders, and the Next Generation," provides forecasts for unit shipments, average selling prices, and revenues by region for DVD playback and recording devices that connect to TV sets, not PCs. It includes a look at emerging DVD player features, DVD recorder combinations, and new DVD technologies including those from silicon providers like Ali, Cirrus Logic, ESS Technology, LSI Logic, MediaTek, NEC, Philips, Sigma Designs, STMicroelectronics, Sunplus, and Zoran.

The report contains 5-year forecasts for worldwide DVD players by region, DVD recorders by region, DVD players by type, DVD recorders with hard drives, DVD recorders with DTV tuners, next-generation DVD players and recorders, DVD player bill of materials (BOMs), and DVD recorder BOMs. Data from a Web survey regarding U.S. consumers' interest in DVD recorders is also presented.

Findings from the report include the following:

  • Worldwide DVD recorder unit shipments will grow from 9.4 million in 2004 to 67.7 million in 2009.
  • Digital TV tuners will be added to DVD recorders in increasing numbers in Japan, Europe, and North America. The FCC DTV tuner mandate will require a DTV tuner in each DVD recorder shipped in the U.S. after July 1, 2007.
  • Three manufacturers are shipping next-generation Blu-ray recorders in Japan, while the first HD-DVD players will be available in the second half of 2005 along with about 90 movie titles. In-Stat expects shipments of next-generation blue laser recorders and players will reach 4 million in 2008, not including video game consoles.

www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c19337

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ATI Technology to Drive Limited Edition Racing Notebook PC

ATI Technologies is powering a new line of limited-edition Formula One-themed notebook PCs with its Mobility Radeon X600 graphics processor. Featuring PCI Express graphics performance, power management features, and multimedia connectivity, the Compal DL70 can handle today's most visually demanding applications without sacrificing battery life, according to ATI. The Formula One-inspired DL70 is a versatile notebook designed for entertainment enthusiasts and mobile professionals alike.

Weighing 6.5 pounds, the Compal DL70 is backed by 128MB of dedicated graphics memory for fast visual performance, as well as ATI's PowerPlay power management technology for up to 4.5 hours of battery life, according to ATI. The DL70 supports Intel Centrino mobile technology and is custom-configurable with support for the latest Intel Pentium processors and wireless adaptors. The notebook also features a wide-screen, high resolution 15.4" SXGA + TFT-LCD display with front-mounted multimedia controls. An internal TV tuner and personal video recorder are also available.

www.ati.com

www.compal.com

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Macrovision Sues Interburn and Sima Over Alleged Copyright Protection Crack

Macrovision has sued two companies it claims offer products that break its patented copyright protection technology and allow consumers to make unauthorized duplicates of commercial DVDs.

In the suit filed Tuesday in New York, Macrovision said the companies--Sima Products and Interburn Enterprises--infringe on its patented copy control technology and also violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

"The Sima and Interburn products have very limited commercial uses other than to circumvent Macrovision's copy protection technology and are marketed by Sima and Interburn for use in copying DVDs, among other types of media," Macrovision CEO Bill Krepick said.

The suit is seeking an order to halt the sale of Sima and Interburn products.

Sima, which is based in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, has not been served with a lawsuit and declined to comment, said Kathy Ruane, Sima's marketing manager. The company learned of the lawsuit from reporters, she added.

Ruane also said Sima has been selling duplication tools for the past eight to 10 years.

The company, according to its Web site, offers DVD X Copy, a program that allows copyright protected DVDs to be duplicated.

Missouri-based 321 Studios, which created the program, lost several rounds in federal court and eventually retooled the software last year to remove the mechanism that cracked the copyright protection mechanism built into commercial DVDs. However, Interburn offers older versions of the 321 program.

www.macrovision.com

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