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Dolby Launches PC, PC-Game Initiatives

San Francisco – Dolby Labs announced an expansion of its consumer-marketing staff to increase consumer awareness of Dolby-technology benefits and to further its penetration of the PC and PC-game markets.

The PC initiative includes the launch of an upgraded virtual 5.1 technology, dubbed Dolby Virtual speaker, which will be available in PCs for the first time in the fourth quarter, said Greg Rodehau, director of marketing for PC and gaming technology.

Rodehau, formerly with NorthPoint and Communications and Hewlett-Packard, is part of a consumer marketing staff that was expanded to four people from one. Ronald Vitale, formerly with Apple and 3Com, was hired as consumer-marketing director. Reporting to him are Rodehau; consumer-channel marketing director Craig Eggers, formerly with Toshiba in product planning and marketing; and Patrick Artiaga, who joined Dolby in 1997 and is now automotive and broadcast marketing director.

‘Dolby has been focused on great engineering,’ Rodehau told TWICE, ‘and now with the reorganization, we want to make sure consumers and licensees are aware of the value of our technologies.’ Consumers are already aware of the Dolby name, however. ‘Consumer awareness of Dolby is close to that of Intel and AOL,’ he claimed.

PC plans: As part of its PC initiatives, Dolby has begun ‘establishing marketing-to-marketing relationships with licensees, not just engineering-to-engineering relationships,’ Rodehau said. As a result, ‘in the next few months, you’ll see a lot of promotion of Dolby by PC manufacturers,’ he said. The promotions will include Dolby Headphone technology, which creates a virtual 5.1-channel sound field through a standard headphone pair and will be available from additional PC suppliers in the fourth quarter, Rodehau said.

The PC-manufacturer promotions will also include Dolby Virtual Speaker, available for the first time in select PCs in the fourth. The technology will also be incorporated in InterVideo’s next version of the WinDVD video player program, which will be available for downloading in early November. CyberLink’s player software will also be available with Virtual Speaker sometime in the fall.

Virtual Speaker’s predecessor, Virtual Dolby Digital, has been available only in select Samsung PCs because the technology was developed before DVD-equipped PCs hit the market and because ‘we didn’t make a concerted effort’ to target PC makers, Rodehau said.

The new technology, which might appear for the first time in CE products at January’s CES, delivers less noise outside the sweet spot and more precise placement of sounds, Rodehau said. The sweet spot’s size will remain relatively small because the technology is intended for ‘personal’ viewing, he noted.

PC game plans: In PC game software, the company hopes to replicate its success in game-machine software. ‘Hundreds’ of currently available game-machine titles contain one form of Dolby technology or another, mostly Surround Pro Logic, the company said, but the majority of the new titles use Pro Logic II or Dolby Digital 5.1. All Xbox titles, for example, contain Dolby Digital, and almost all the new titles for Nintendo’s GameCube and Sony’s PlayStation2 are encoded in Pro Logic II, the company said.

War Craft III, the first PC-game title with Dolby Surround, shipped in the summer and two additional titles due soon are Unreal Tournament and America’s Army.

Nvidea’s N force motherboard decodes Dolby Digital for the PC, enabling many PC games to be played in Dolby Digital 5.1.

Other promo plans include raising consumer awareness of its technologies in all platforms, Dolby plans to coordinate more promotions for its licensees, Rodehau said. In the fourth, for example, the company plans a promotion involving the movie Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. On its 1,035 U.S. screens, movie-theater chain National Amusements will promote a free home theater system and a new game title based on the movie.

In the CE market, the company will ‘focus on educating licensees, who will work with retailers’ to promote Dolby’s advantages, he said.