Plenty Of Technology On Display At CEATEC

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Chiba, Japan - As usual last week’s CEATEC Japan show, held here annually, debuted plenty of new technologies and products, including developments in DVD recording, video gaming and Windows Media 9 Series.

New dual-layer recordable DVD disc technologies for respective DVD+R and DVD-R formats were shown by Philips and Pioneer at the show.

Philips and Verbatim co-developed the new dual-layer recordable disc which will virtually double disc capacity and will not require users to flip the media over while playing.

The technology expands the current 4.7GB disc capacity for single-layer discs to 8.5GB, while retaining playback compatiblity with existing DVD-Video players and DVD-ROM drives, the company said.

Days before the show, Pioneer announced in Tokyo that it had developed dual-layer recording technology for its DVD-R format, expanding the capacity for one side of a disc to 8.5 GB.

Pioneer said this is 'almost the same performance as that for dual-layer DVD-ROM discs,' meaning that the new DVD-R discs supporting this technology can be played back on most existing DVD players.

Pioneer’s new technology will allow users to record programs up to about four hours in the SP mode, and up to about 12 hours in the EP mode with DVD recorders, the company said.

Philips’ dual-layer disc will enable recordings up to four hours in DVD-quality video or 16 hours in VHS quality, the company said. Users will be able to archive up to 8.5 GB of computer files.

Both the Philips and Pioneer dual-layer discs have write-once capability and will require new hardware to make recordings.

In video games, Sony said it would launch its previously announced ‘PSX’ in Japan later this year at a minimum price of $727, according to wire reports.

The new PSX entertainment system, a beefed up PS2 video game console that integrates a DVD recorder/player, DVR and satellite TV tuner, will include a 160GB HDD capable of recording up to 204 hours of television, the company said. The company is also planning a 250GB version that would sell for about $910.

Sony also has plans to offer a portable video game/media player called the PSP at a price between $150 and $200 late next year. U.S. distribution plans were not set as yet.

Meanwhile Nokia launched worldwide a new combination handheld video game player/cellphone/music player called N-Gage ($299 suggested retail in the U.S.). Nokia plans to have 20 N-Gage games by the end of the year, price between $35-$70. Video game developers Electronic Arts, Eidos and Ubi Soft and accessories maker Mad Catz will support it.

As for the Windows Media 9 Series, Microsoft used CEATEC to announce a broad list of chip and consumer electronics manufacturers that will add support for its format.

Microsoft said it now expects more than 400 devices — double what it announced at CES last January — would soon add Windows Media support. These devices range from DVD and CD players to car stereos, portable audio devices and set-top boxes.

Analog Devices demonstrated the first Windows Media Audio 9 Professional decoder chip — SHARC Melody Ultra — in Pioneer Electronics’ VSA-AX10N-i AV amplifier.

Hitachi announced its BroadGear Digital Media Processor now supports Windows Media Video 9 encoding and decoding for implementation in digital television products including, set-top boxes and video-editing equipment, among other categories.

Matsushita Electric Industrial, Panasonic’s parent, unveiled a portable CD player with Windows Media Audio 9 playback. NEC, Technica and Sanyo also demonstrated products using Windows Media 9 Series technology.

DirecTV Pushes HDTV, DVR For New Subs

New York - DirecTV announced plans to use HDTV services and digital video recorders (DVRs) as key tools in acquiring new subscribers from digital cable operators and in retaining subscribers it has already enlisted.

As part of that effort, DirecTV president Roxanne Austin announced here a series of digital video recorder promotions aimed at putting the hard-drive-based DVRs in the hands of as many subscribers as possible.

She said the satellite service currently lists about 500,000 DirecTV DVR users. Most of those are using the DirecTV/ TiVo DVR platform.

Austin said DirecTV decided to launch the initiative after finding a significant boost in sales among consumers who had been exposed to the word-of-mouth testimonials of friends and family members. Like the DirecTV service, which was hard to explain to consumers when service launched 10 years ago, Austin said DVRs would benefit most directly from word-of-mouth support.

For that reason, the company unveiled a series of offers – most slated to start on Oct.19, 2003.

DirecTV’s promotional offers include the following:

l A $99 offer on any 40GB DirecTV DVR, reflecting $149 off the $249 suggested retail price.

l DirecTV’s 'Try It, You’ll Like It or Your Money Back' plan, which allows customers who have purchased a DirecTV DVR to return the product for a refund within 30 days of purchase if they are not completely satisfied.

l A free 3-room standard DirecTV system offer, that lets new customers receive one DirecTV multi-satellite dish antennae, three DirecTV receivers, three remote controls and standard professional installation with a one-year commitment to any DirecTV Total Choice programming package. The offer is only open to new subscribers and runs through Feb. 28, 2003.

l A DirecTV HD receiver offer for new and existing subscribers, bundling a DirecTV HD receiver, a triple LNB satellite dish and installation 'at affordable prices.'

DirecTV will support the programs with a $10 million advertising campaign dedicated to DVRs.

Running from mid-October through the end of the year, the campaign will target four-color inserts in such magazines as Maxim, Sports Illustrated, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, People and Us, and in full-page newspaper ads in USA Today and dailies in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.

Meanwhile, DirecTV said parent Hughes Electronics and DirecTV Holdings LLC are increasing full-year guidance for net subscriber additions and revenues.

'Due primarily to DirecTV U.S.’s attractive consumer promotions, including the very popular NFL Sunday Ticket, along with solid churn management consistent with its third quarter expectations of approximately 1.6 percent per month, DirecTV U.S. expects to add about 320,000 net new owned and operated subscribers in the quarter,' announced Hughes CEO Jack Shaw.

Shaw said DirecTV U.S. is increasing its full-year 2003 guidance for net owned and operated subscriber additions to approximately 1.05 million, compared with the prior estimate of about 900,000.

As for its previously announced HDTV PVR, Austin said the company is now targeting an early 2004 availability date.


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