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January 10, 2006

Table of Contents

The DVD Writer: Blu-ray Disc and the Meaning of Backwards Compatibility
Hitachi's New DVD Camcorders Focus on a Host of User-Friendly Features
Blu-ray Disc Format Specifications Completed
Acronova Technology Launches QQboxx, Offering Interleave Multiple-Master Duplication and Additional Features for DupliQ
Technicolor Chooses Sonic Authoring Solutions to Power World’s First Advanced Interactive Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD Titles
BenQ Announces New Line of CD-R LightScribe and DVD-/+R Media
Acer Presents the Aspire 5670 Series

The DVD Writer: Blu-ray Disc and the Meaning of Backwards Compatibility

Change is unsettling. But, like it or not, change is once again upon us—this time with the arrival of next generation Blu-ray Disc (BD). Naturally, consumers and even professionals are apprehensive about this new format but, even so, BD's promoters are doing an embarrassingly poor job of understanding and answering concerns. For example, manufacturers and content publishers amazingly have yet to clearly and consistently articulate BD device compatibility with CDs and DVDs.

What focuses my attention on this issue is a flurry of press releases distributed last week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Proudly, some proclaim "Blu-ray Disc players will be fully backward-compatible with current CD/DVD formats" and others "Blu-ray Disc playback products are expected to be backward-compatible with the current DVDs, allowing continued enjoyment of existing DVD collections." Disappointingly, these statements are not as defining as they might at first appear but more reminiscent of the unforgivably slippery language used regarding DVD/CD compatibility when DVD was released ten years ago.

Now, as was the case then, backwards compatibility is not mandated by official specifications, so it's going to be a matter of choice for each individual hardware manufacturer. Thus, all marketers can claim is that it is possible to design BD devices that can read and write existing CD and DVD formats. They've made few efforts to clarify technical distinctions within and among the various disc families, and explaining how costs and market forces inexorably drive compatibility decisions hasn't seemed a priority.

Physical, application, and logical considerations are all part of the technological compatibility picture. On the physical level, CDs, DVDs, and BDs are distinctly different from one another. Supporting all of them in a single device is a considerable challenge. Each employs different-sized pits, lands, tracks, and substrate thicknesses. Each is composed of disparate materials and is written or read using lasers of various wavelengths through lenses of assorted numerical apertures. Each format's optical response is also carefully tuned so discs are not panchromatic.

Thus achieving physical compatibility requires BD players, drives, and recorders to incorporate involved optical pickups employing multiple lasers (780nm for CD, 650nm for DVD, and 405nm for BD) and numerous other clever tricks. DVD-RAM's oddball nature (not to mention optional cartridge) requires still further hardware modifications be made.

As such, expect an array of device permutations on the market. For example, set-top BD players that work with DVD±R/±RW but not CD-R/RW or DVD-RAM. Perhaps computer recorders that read/write DVD±R/RW but not CD-R/RW or DVD-RAM or set-tops that write DVD-R/RW/RAM but neither DVD+R/RW nor CD-R/RW. And there will even be some units that try to do them all.

Application and logical layers muddy these waters still further. Even if a device can physically read a disc, the hardware must be programmed to decode and interpret its contents. For example, while all BD units will most likely play standard DVD-Video (DVD-V) titles, can the same be said for discs of the DVD-Audio (DVD-A) or DVD Video Recording (DVD-VR) persuasions? What about Audio, Video, or Super Video (CD-DA, VCD, SVCD) CDs? MP3/WMA CDs and DVDs? And while I'm at it, will all BD units support DVD content protection systems including Content Protection for Recordable Media (CPRM) and the Video Content Protection System (VCPS)?

In fairness, the transition to any new storage format is traumatic and managing it a tremendous challenge. That said, the optical storage industry should not squander its opportunity to start fresh and clean up the messes they created in the CD and DVD formats. And universally launching entirely backward-compatible BD products would be a good start. At the very least, the industry should provide clear explanations of any limitations up front, and go on to use consistent marketing language to let everyone know what BD truly holds in store.

Hugh Bennett (hugh_bennett@compuserve.com), an EMedia contributing editor, is president of Forget Me Not Information Systems (www.forgetmenot.on.ca), a reseller, systems integrator and industry consultant based in London, Ontario, Canada. Hugh is the author of Understanding Recordable & Rewritable DVD and Understanding CD-R & CD-RW, both published by the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA).

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Hitachi's New DVD Camcorders Focus on a Host of User-Friendly Features

The Home Electronics Division of Hitachi America, Ltd., a subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., www.hitachi.us/tv, has introduced its sixth-generation UltraVision DVD Camcorders comprised of four new models offering new features for an affordable price.

The advances in Hitachi's new DVD camcorder line satisfy the demands of both tech-savvy users wanting cutting-edge, premium features and enhanced CinemaRes image quality as well as price-conscious consumers focused on convenience and ease of use.

The new product line, comprised of the DZGX3300A, DZGX3200A, DZGX3100A and DZBX35A, provides media format versatility to support the most popular and widely available DVD formats, including DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD-RAM and DVD+RW discs as well as SD cards for digital stills. Other user-friendly features include a One Touch finalization button for quick and easy access to this essential last step, and a sleep/restart battery saver function that puts the camcorder in hibernation to save battery power between recordings and enables users to begin recording within one second of activation to ensure no action is missed.

All models include the new Video-to-Photo Frame Grab Tool, which allows users to pull a photo still from video and route to SD memory card. This prevents taking video without switching the "still mode" on and off and enables users to easily create the photo image of any desired scene after recording onto DVD. Additionally, all models offer enhanced Super Digital Zoom, a large 2.7-inch 16x9 widescreen LCD, and a "Quick Mode" Menu System that features Hitachi Disc Navigation to instantly access desired scenes via thumbnail images without having to fast forward or rewind.

Ranging from $399 to $799, the new models exceed Hitachi's goal of providing high-quality, cutting-edge technology at an affordable price. Superior imaging is made possible with the company's new CinemaRes Advanced Image Processing with "Oversampling" high resolution capture, an exclusive technology that uses the entire CCD to capture both video and still images before converting to DVD format, utilizing the camcorder's entire capacity to create a sharper, more detailed picture.

New this year, Hitachi introduces its first line of DVD camcorder accessories, including the CAMKIT2 that features a Hitachi-branded nylon camcorder bag, two-hour battery and three DVD-R discs, as well as the Hitachi Video Light, 2x Telephoto Zoom Lens, and a Media Pack with a mini DVD disc wallet.

Hitachi's top-of-the-line UltraVision DZGX3300A DVD Camcorder offers a 3.3 mega pixel resolution with a maximum photo resolution of 2016 x 1512 and 10x optical zoom. New to the line, this unit features a polished smoked-chrome finish and aerodynamic design for a dramatically contemporary styling. The DZGX3200A follows with 2.12 mega pixels at 1600 x 1200 and 10x optical zoom. Both models feature PC and Mac compatibility for the first time ever and include a powered accessory port (hot shoe) as well as Composite and S-Video Inputs. The DZGX3200A will be available in March for a suggested retail price of $599 and the DZGX3300A will be available in April at a suggested retail price of $799.

The UltraVision DZGX3100A DVD Camcorder sports a 1.3 mega pixel resolution at 1280 x 960 and 15x Optical Zoom and 800x Super Digital Zoom. The unit comes with a 700mAh slim battery that records for over an hour with the widescreen LCD open, Composite and S-Video Inputs, a USB 2.0 cable and PC and Macintosh compatibility. The DZGX3100A will be available in April at a suggested retail price of $499. With 680K pixel resolution at 640 x 480 and a 25x optical/1200x super digital lens, the UltraVision(R) DZBX35A rounds out Hitachi's DVD camcorder product line. Retailing at $399, the DZBX35A provides unprecedented value. The DZBX35A will be available in March.

www.hitachi.us/tv

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Blu-ray Disc Format Specifications Completed

The Blu-ray Disc Association has announced that the format specification is complete and that licensing is ready to begin for BD-ROM, BD-RE, and BD-R. The completion of the specification now enables content providers and manufacturers to begin the process of producing Blu-ray Disc products for a wide variety of uses.

The Blu-ray Disc Association approved these specifications on January 2, 2006. Licensing of the BD-R and BD-RE 2.0 specifications began December 26, 2005. Specifications have been approved for the Blu-ray Disc single (25GB) and dual (50GB) layer specifications. "

With the completion of these specifications, consumers can expect to see Blu-ray discs in the market over the course of the next few months. Parties interested in licensing the Blu-ray Disc technology should contact the Blu-ray Disc License Agent (agent@blu-raydisc.info or fax +81-3-5769 5727) and execute the required license agreement. Companies interesting in developing, manufacturing, and selling Blu-ray Disc products must sign a license agreement to comply with the format specifications.

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Acronova Technology Launches QQboxx, Offering Interleave Multiple-Master Duplication and Additional Features for DupliQ

Acronova Technology, a manufacturer of CD and DVD duplicators, has release the QQboxx, an enhanced CD and DVD duplication software suite for its portable-size, USB connected, automated CD/DVD burner, DupliQ. The QQboxx is packed with auto-loader support and several feature-rich duplication features that were previously found only among expensive professional automated duplicating systems.

"The QQboxx works seamlessly with DupliQ to provide automated disc-reading and -writing features for Disc-to-Disc, Image-to-Disc, Disc-to-Image and Data-to-Disc applications. The user-friendly interface offers a step-by-step graphical display to enhance and simplify the user experience. By only a few clicks at your computer, through the USB 2.0 port the DupliQ connected to it can automatically Copy, Emulate, Quick Erase, Copy and Verify, Emulate and Copy, Emulate plus Copy and Verify discs at your wish," said Ming Liu, CEO of Acronova Technology.

"The intelligent Interleave Copy and Batch Copy of QQboxx will instruct DupliQ to one-by-one pick up discs from the storage bin, feed it to the CD and DVD recorder, read or write it, and so on, until all the discs are treated. For users who need to make one or more copies of several master discs, the Interleave Copy and Batch Copy features can effectively reduce the number of man hours and eliminate human errors," said Wesley Lin, assistant sales manager of Acronova Technology.

With its patent-pending design, DupliQ is equipped with a 25-disc storage bin for stacking the master and blank discs. Users may load the storage bin with 120mm, 80 mm and business-card discs of CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD+RW formats. QQboxx supports the reading and writing of following disc format: Data CD (Mode1 and 2), CD-DA (Audio CD), Video CD, Super Video CD, UDF, ISO9660, CD Extra, Photo CD, DVD Data, and DVD Video.

QQboxx for Windows XP/2000 is immediately available for bundling shipment with DupliQ automated CD and DVD recording system at an MSRP of $699 and $799 (for CD and DVD, individually). The DVD version reads and writes both CD and DVD, while the CD version works with only CD.

www.acronova.com

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Technicolor Chooses Sonic Authoring Solutions to Power World’s First Advanced Interactive Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD Titles

Sonic Solutions and Technicolor have announced the production of the world's first replicated discs utilizing the advanced interactive modes of the Blu-ray Disc (BD) and HD DVD formats. Highlighting the real-world capabilities of Sonic-developed tools available to members of Sonic's High Definition Authoring Alliance (HDAA), the titles were authored at Technicolor Creative Services' DVD authoring facility in Burbank using Sonic Scenarist HD DVD Edition and Scenarist Blu-ray Edition high-definition authoring workstations. The titles were then optically mastered by Eclipse Data Technologies and replicated by Technicolor Home Entertainment Services in Camarillo, CA.

 The Technicolor-produced titles were showcased at HD DVD and Blu-ray demonstrations during the 2006 International CES this week in Las Vegas, Nevada. Delivering the exciting interactive features of the new high-definition formats, the first title features the recently re-mastered documentary Chronos by award-winning director Ron Fricke.

The Sonic authoring systems used to create the BD and HD DVD discs at Technicolor are included in the set of encoding, authoring, and emulation solutions supplied to members as part of Sonic's HDAA program. Sonic's tools enable the features of each format's standard playback modes — HDMV for BD and Standard Content for HD DVD — while also offering unique support for the advanced interactive capabilities of iHD for Advanced Content HD DVD and BD-J for Blu-ray Disc. The advanced capabilities enabled by these tools are highlighted in both versions of Chronos, which feature movie-synchronized on-screen display of bonus material such as anecdotes and annotations, and contextual overlaid menus that allow viewers to select scene navigation, change audio settings, and turn on annotations, all without interrupting video playback.

Scenarist Blu-ray Edition Workgroup includes BD-J advanced interactive components, while Sonic Scenarist HD DVD Edition Workgroup includes the Sonic HD DVD Advanced Content Multiplexer and Advanced Content Player, making it the first production platform capable of both producing and emulating fully interactive HD DVD 1.0 titles. The tools are updated as format specifications are finalized and feedback from HDAA members is incorporated into the interface and workflow design.

For further information on the HD Authoring Alliance, please contact Sonic at hdaa_info@sonic.com.

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BenQ Announces New Line of CD-R LightScribe and DVD-/+R Media

BenQ, a manufacturer of digital lifestyle devices, has announced a new line of CDR LightScribe and DVDR media. The maximum-speed 52X CDR LightScribe media supports the LightScribe direct-disc-labeling technology that burns text and graphics on the surface of the CD, offers a data capacity of 700MB / 80 minutes, and comes in quantities of 25.

The DVDR media comes in three variations: DVD+R versions of both the designer and BenQ-branded discs. BenQ's 16x-speed DVDR Designer Collection features stylish designs on the discs, including images of movie film and director clip designs, and provides 4.7GB data capacity. The Designer Collection packs come in quantities of 25. The high-performance 16x-speed BenQ-branded media offers 4.7GB data capacity and comes in packs of 25.

All versions of media are currently available and can be purchased through authorized BenQ distribution channels.

www.benq.us

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Acer Presents the Aspire 5670 Series

Acer America Corporation has announced the new Acer Aspire 5670 notebook series, a new multimedia high end system in Acer's Aspire notebook product line. The Aspire 5670 targets both private users and SOHO professionals.

The Aspire 5670 series uses to the latest Intel Centrino Mobile Technology Duo platform, codenamed NAPA, and its advanced components, including Intel Core processor Duo, the Intel 945PM Express chipset and the Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG network connection chipset for full wireless connectivity. The Aspire 5670 features a fast SATA hard drive which offers storage capacity of up to 120GB. DDR2 memory provides the Aspire 5670 serious horsepower with standard system memory set at 1024MB which is scalable to 2048MB. The integrated ATI MOBILITY RADEON X1400 graphics card delivers better digital video and photo quality on the brilliant 15.4" widescreen CrystalBrite TFT LCD display with 1200 x 800 pixel resolution.

To meet the growing demand for IP-based communication facilities, the Aspire 5670 features Acer Video Conference with Voice and Video over IP (VVoIP) support via the Acer OrbiCam and the Acer Bluetooth VoIP phone. Acer OrbiCam, the LCD panel-mounted 1.3 megapixel CMOS camera features the following:

  • 225-degree ergonomic rotation
  • Acer VisageOn technology (face tracking and centering software)
  • Acer OptimaLight technology (image improving software).

 Acer has also equipped the Aspire 5670 with a suite of software utilities designed to provide users with rapid access to the most advanced management and setting functions in no more than 3 mouse-clicks. For example, eDataSecurity Management provides superior security and protection of crucial data by creating a folder that automatically encrypts confidential files, while eRecovery management allows secure back-up of Hard Disk, OS, and personal files. ePerformance management provides rapid disk and speed optimization along with disk fragmentation functions, while eSettings management allows intelligent system management.

The Aspire 5670 also includes the Acer Aspire Arcade, a comprehensive suite for high-quality multimedia home entertainment providing effortless access to photo albums, DVD and video playback, editing, and authoring. Acer Arcade is enhanced by the integrated multimedia features of the Aspire 5670 such as Intel High-Definition audio support, built-in microphones, S/PDIF support for digital speakers, integrated DVD-Super Multi double-layer drive or DVD-Dual double-layer and a 5-in-1 memory card reader.

The Aspire 5670 offers maximum flexibility for wireless, wired, and dial-up connectivity, through the Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG network connection chipset with 802.11a, b and g standards, backed up by Acer SignalUp Wireless Technology, in addition to the integrated Bluetooth 2.0 module for easy connection to personal wireless devices. LAN connectivity is provided by the integrated gigabit Ethernet card while traditional dial-up connection is possible thanks to the 56Kbps ITU V.92 fax modem.

The Acer Aspire 5670 is equipped with a comprehensive set of I/O ports, including 4 USB 2.0 ports; DVI-D port, ExpressCard slot; PC Card slot (one Type II); IEEE 1394 port; Fast Infrared port; CIR port; External Display (VGA) port; S-video/Tv-out (NTSC/PAL) port; Headphones/speaker/line-out port with S/PDIF support; Microphone jack; Line-in jack; Ethernet (RJ-45) port; Modem (RJ-11) port; Parallel port; DC-in jack for the AC adapter.

The Aspire 5670 notebook series comes with Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition or Microsoft Windows XP Professional Edition pre-installed. Additional installed software includes Acer Empowering Technology, Adobe Reader, Norton AntiVirus, CyberLink Power Producer, NTI CD-Maker together with Acer GridVista -- a software utility that divides the screen in up to 4 different windows -- each one associated with a different application -- and the Acer Arcade Software Suite featuring Acer CinemaVision(TM) video technology and Acer ClearVision(TM) video optimization technology.

The Aspire 5670 is available through Acer Authorized Resellers throughout North America starting at approximately $1499.

The Acer Aspire 5670 notebook comes with a standard one-year parts and labor limited warranty, including concurrent International Traveler's Coverage. Additionally, all Acer notebooks are backed by toll-free service and support. Online support is available at www.acersupport.com.

www.acer.com/us.

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