Industry Roundup

Low-cost TVs: Free trade may be good for American consumers, but it isn't always good for American workers. So concluded a US trade panel investigating charges that Chinese manufacturers have been "dumping" low-cost television sets on the US market over the past three years. On May 14, the US International Trade Commission voted unanimously to impose duties averaging 23% on imports of Chinese-made color televisions (CTVs), an action that could force up retail prices. Acting on a petition brought by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the Industrial Division of the Communication Workers of America (IUE-CWA), and Five Rivers Electronic Innovations, LLC, a TV manufacturer in Greeneville, Tennessee, the Commission found that between 2001 and 2003, total CTV imports from China rose 3000%, from 56,000 units to 1.8 million units. Imports of consumer goods reached an all-time high of $31.3 billion in March 2004, according to Five Rivers president Tom Hopson.

FCC wireless plan: On Thursday, May 13, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced plans to open up "underutilized broadcast TV spectrum" for unlicensed wireless devices. The plan to use idle broadcast spectrum could extend the operating range for many wireless service providers, according to FCC Chairman Michael Powell. So-called "smart radios" can detect when a frequency is idle and use it without causing interference with local broadcasters, according to Intel chief technical officer Patrick Gelsinger.

PVR shipments triple: Global shipments of personal video recorders (PVRs, also called digital video recorders, or DVRs) tripled in the past twelve months, according to stats compiled by research firm In-Stat/MDR. The growth is due to "rising demand from satellite and cable TV operators for PVR-enabled set top boxes," according to analyst Mike Paxton. Cable and satellite services are scrambling to offer their subscribers easy-to-use set-top receivers with integrated PVRs and DVD recorders. Unit shipments of PVR products grew from 1.5 million in 2002 to 4.6 million in 2003. Analysts predict that shipments will exceed 11 million in 2004, with approximately 80% of them combination DVD-PVR products. The trend is especially disturbing to copyright-conscious broadcasters and Hollywood film studios.

Cable from Verizon: On May 13, Verizon Communications. Inc. applied to the FCC to offer cable television service via fiber-optic cable to customers in nine states as part of a new broadband network, according to a report in Business Week. Verizon, the largest telephone company, announced that it would spend $1 billion on getting the fiber-optic cables to homes this year, with a goal of reaching 1 million homes. The service could put a dent in the bottom line for cable companies relying on traditional coax. Fiber-optic cables can handle video, data and voice signals at much higher speeds than cable, noted an announcement from PRNewswires.

LG and SRS Labs: Korean manufacturing giant LG Electronics has selected SRS Labs' "TruSurround XT" virtual surround sound technology for its next-generation flat panel televisions. TruSurround XT delivers "powerful and immersive surround sound over just two speakers" with improved intelligibility in the presence of intense low-frequency sound effects, according to SRS Labs. LG TV models with TruSurround include the 44" DN-44SZ60D, the 42" DN-42PZ70, the 42" DN-42PZ60, the 50" DU-50PZ60 and the 52" DU-52SZ61D. TruSurround and TruSurround XT are the established standards "for the virtualization of 5.1 surround sound over two-speaker systems . . . featured in over 15 million consumer hardware products globally," according to a press release from Santa Ana, CA-based SRS Labs.

Roxio caters to Mac fans: Santa Clara-based Roxio, Inc. has announced an upgrade to its popular "Toast 6" DVD authoring software that will let users of Apple computers create dual-layer DVDs, thereby doubling the data capacity of DVD+R and +RW discs from 4.7GB to 8.5GB. The improvement will allow more than three hours of MPEG-2 (DVD-quality) video content on a single DVD +R DL disc, according to a May 11 announcement. It will also let video professionals using Macintosh gear "to create full-length productions without using complicated and expensive digital linear tape," and let Toast 6 users back up non-encrypted DVDs without having to compress the dual layer into a single layer, which compromises video and audio quality. All registered "Toast 6 Titanium" and "Toast with Jam 6" customers will be able to update their software using a free download available in June from Roxio websites.