Industry News Roundup

The next generation of video projectors will be several magnitudes better than the best ones available now. A hint of things to come was unveiled by Sony Electronics earlier in March, with a public demonstration of its Silicon Crystal Reflective (SXRD) technology. At the heart of SXRD is a high-density fixed-pixel micro display generating over 2 million pixels (1920 x 1080 pixels) of picture data from a 0.78"-diagonal panel with a pixel pitch of 9mm each and an inter-pixel spacing of just 0.35mm.

SXRD pixel density is approximately 2.5 times better than comparable micro displays now available. SXRD achieves a 10X improvement in pixel spacing compared to typical LCD or single-panel DLP products, according to Tim Alessi, director of Sony's television and digital media marketing division. "The Holy Grail of high definition is realized by achieving the highest pixel density in the smallest image area possible," he said. "SXRD accomplishes this while providing the brightest picture and the highest contrast levels as well. All this from a device that is highly reliable and relatively simple to manufacture."

SXRD projectors and displays could achieve unprecedented black level and brightness, with a contrast ratio of 3000:1, according to advance publicity. Sony predicts that the first SXRD television products—including both front- and rear-projection sets—will come on the market by the end of the year. Further down the road—several years, perhaps—is another futuristic display technology Sony is calling "grating light value (GLV) laser projection." Possible uses include commercial theaters and very high-end home theater applications.

Only months after breaking the $3000 price barrier on a 42" plasma display, Gateway Computer has announced drastic cutbacks in its workforce. The Poway, CA–based company announced March 18 that it would soon close 76 Gateway Country stores and cut about 1900 jobs. The belt-tightening could save Gateway as much as $200 million in the coming year and put it back on the path to profitability, according to chairman Ted Waitt. "We’re taking the tough but necessary steps to continue our transformation back to healthy growth," he said. The retail cutbacks will affect 29% of the company's stores. Waitt said Gateway would expand its offerings in the remaining stores, adding more convergence products, including audio and video gear.

Three Republican senators have asked FCC chairman Michael Powell to reconsider further loosening of ownership restrictions on media outlets without more input from ordinary Americans. Senators Wayne Allard (CO) and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, cautioned the chairman that proceeding without public hearings would "be inappropriate to make significant changes that could have a sweeping impact on how our society engages in public debate without first having a complete public airing of these changes . . . A fully functioning democracy depends on media sources with diverse voices and opinions as well as content relevant to local communities. Over the years, courts have reaffirmed the belief of Congress that independent ownership of media outlets results in more diverse media voices, greater competition among owners and the production of more local content."

The Senators' appeal to Powell came almost simultaneously with a resolution passed by the Philadelphia city council stating its support for ownership caps and the diversity of viewpoints that it implies. To date, Powell has hosted only one public hearing on the issue, in Richmond, VA. He has said further hearings aren't necessary given the enormous amount of correspondence his agency has received on the issue.