Cable vs. Satellite vs. DSL

TV life used to be pretty simple: Stick a pair of rabbit ears on the set, and if you lived near a big city, pull in a dozen channels or so---more if you had a UHF tuner. Now we have cable as well as satellite dishes big and small. In the near future, even your phone company could get into the act with some form of digital subscriber line (DSL) service. But of all these choices, which offers the best value? Two recent studies attempt to unravel the choices facing consumers with an analysis of the options.

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FireWire Home Networks Get Hot

Another step toward a standardized audio/video home network was taken last week when eight consumer-electronics manufacturers agreed to implement a patent license program for the <A HREF="http://www.havi.org/">HAVi</A> specification. The companies involved in the announcement are <A HREF="http://www.grundig.com/">Grundig</A>, <A HREF="http://www.Hitachi.com/">Hitachi</A>, Matsushita (<A HREF="http://www.Panasonic.com/">Panasonic</A>), <A HREF="http://www.philips.com/">Philips</A>, <A HREF="http://www.sharpelectronics.com/">Sharp</A>, <A HREF="http://www.sony.com">Sony</A>, Thomson Multimedia, and <A HREF="http://www.toshiba.com">Toshiba</A>. Under the licensing program, the HAVi home-network architecture will be made available to the electronics and multimedia industries in spring 1999. Philips has been designated to serve as the licensing contact on behalf of the eight companies.

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The Doom Generation Spills Onto DVD

J<I>onathan Schaech, Rose McGowan, James Duval. Directed by Gregg Araki. Aspect ratio: 1.33:1. Dolby Surround 2.0. 83 minutes. 1995. TRI6836. Not rated. $24.95.</I>

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Seagram to Blend PolyGram/Universal Units; Will Eat Costs

Several months into one of the biggest mergers the entertainment industry has ever seen, Seagram Company has announced that many of the film and video operations it acquired in its buyout of PolyGram NV will be absorbed into its Universal Studios division. A flurry of pink slips for PolyGram employees, a shuffling of Universal management following a box-office slump, and a hefty write-down for the current quarter are all part of the script.

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CEMA: Forrester Research Wrong on HDTV

Gary Shapiro, president of the <A HREF="http://www.cemacity.org/">Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association</A> (CEMA), lashed out last week at technology-trends research firm Forrester Research after FR issued a November <A HREF="http://www.forrester.com/Marketing/0,1051,58,00.html">report</A> dismissing consumer interest in high-definition television (HDTV). The report, authored by Josh Bernoff, foresees that digital TV will take off, but that most consumers won't be sufficiently smitten with hi-def pictures to go for the technology in a big way---or at least not in a way that will fully benefit makers of HD receivers.

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Each Month, the Strategy Becomes More Clear . . .

Software titan <A HREF="http://www.microsoft.com">Microsoft</A> has big eyes <I>and</I> a big stomach, as evidenced by the company's announcements at the Western Cable Show in Anaheim, California, last week. It's no secret that the software giant has been eyeing consumers' living rooms for years, hoping to get Windows CE (WinCE), a junior version of the ubiquitous Windows operating system, into portable devices and TV sets.

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Broadcast Bigwigs Gather at the Western Cable Show

Cable companies have found themselves under assault from the direct broadcast satellite (DBS) forces for several years now, and they face new potential competition from local phone companies' digital subscriber line (DSL) systems. As a result, they have begun to circle their wagons in an attempt to ward off further damage.

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Psycho Collector's Edition

A<I>nthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, Simon Oakland, Patricia Hitchcock. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 (letterbox). Dolby Digital monaural, monaural (French). 109 minutes. 1960. Universal Home Video 20251. Rated PG. $34.98.</I>

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Three-Way Deal Boosts EchoStar's Potential

Two new satellites, 28 new digital broadcasting frequencies, and a new broadcast-operations center are among the trophies <A HREF="http://www.echostar.com/">EchoStar Communications Corporation</A> will take home in a stock-swap agreement with Rupert Murdoch's <A HREF="http://www.newscorp.com/">News Corporation</A> and <A HREF="http://www.mci.com/">MCI WorldCom</A>. The agreement with News Corp. brings litigation between the two companies to an end, and it is expected to substantially strengthen EchoStar's position as a leader in direct broadcast satellite (DBS). <A HREF="http://www.directv.com/">DirecTV</A> and <A HREF="http://www.ussb.com/">USSB</A> are the only other serious contenders in the North American DBS market.

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Sony Erects New Electonic Barrier to Digital Pirates

Entertainment-industry executives should sleep better thanks to a recent announcement from <A HREF="http://www.sony.com/">Sony Corporation</A>. On November 30, Sony announced it has developed robust, multilevel copy protection for the emerging IEEE 1394 interconnect standard, which represents an escalation in the technological war against poachers of intellectual property.

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