Industry Roundup

TDK and Blu-ray: Blank-media giant TDK has officially endorsed Blu-ray technology, according to an April 5 report out of the CeBIT technology show in Hanover, Germany. TDK is the latest to join the Blu-ray contingent, following Hewlett-Packard and Dell Computer. The 50-gigabyte capacity of Blu-ray discs will accommodate feature-length high-definition video programming and recording. TDK's contribution will make the 5" discs more user-friendly by eliminating a proposed "disc caddy."

Growth of DTV: The Consumer Electronics Association's (CEA) president Gary Shapiro launched the ninth annual DTV Summit in Washington with an announcement that more than 9 million DTV products are now in US homes. "We now actually project that 5.7 million DTV units will be sold this year, 9.4 million in 2005, 15.6 million in 2006 and 23 million in 2007. And this is still for a fairly expensive product," Shapiro told DTV Summit attendees. Projected figures have been revised upwards due to the popularity of DTV products, but the market penetration of the technology won't reach the 85% threshold needed to end analog TV broadcasting by the December 31, 2006 deadline set by the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC).

That level won't be reached in 2007, either, according to CEA market guru Sean Wargo. By the end of that year, the installed base of DTV sets and monitors will total about 62 million units, approximately 53% of US homes, only about 33% of which will be receiving and displaying DTV signals by that time. Only 2.3% of US households were doing so at the end of 2003. FCC officials would like to count cable and satellite subscribers as part of DTV's market penetration, a plan Chairman Michael Powell has yet to endorse.

FTC = "Film Trade Commission?" On April 8, the Bush administration announced the nomination of film industry lobbyist Jon Liebowitz to fill a Democratic vacancy on the Federal Trade Commission, to succeed departing FTC commissioner Mozelle Thompson. Liebowitz is vice president of congressional affairs for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). His nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.

Changes at Atlantic Tech: Audio manufacturer Atlantic Technology is now under the control of its original board of directors, the result of a sale by majority owner OAC Group, a management and consulting firm. OAC partners Oscar Ciornei and Joshua Cooper are now consultants to Atlantic. Ciornei had been Atlantic's president and CEO for the past year, and Cooper had served as creative director and industrial designer. Atlantic founder and board chairman Peter Tribeman is now president and CEO.

PARA 's 25th: The Professional Audio Video Retailers Association (PARA) will celebrate its 25th anniversary at this year's annual management conference. The "In The Zone 2004" event takes place April 21–25 in Scottsdale, AZ, presided over by departing PARA executive director Deborah Smith. She will host her final conference before leaving the association to start a consulting company. PARA was the consumer electronics industry's first management association for independent specialty audio retailers, later expanded to include video, home theater, and custom installation.

Sony retail expansion: Sony Electronics will likely expand its Sony Style stores into ten US markets this year, according to an announcement in late March. The company currently has two of the stores in Beverly Hills and Costa Mesa, CA. New Sony Style stores will differ from the big full-line stores in New York and San Francisco, and will instead emphasized products targeted for women. "The stores will not have rows of TVs nor even carry all of our products," a company spokesman said, and will feature "counselors and coaches" to demonstrate products in "lifestyle vignettes."

EchoStar up: EchoStar Communications reported a that revenue rose 14% in the fourth quarter, ended December 31, totaling $1.5 billion, up from $1.3 billion in the same period in 2002. Net income for the quarter was $3 million, versus a net loss of $716 million for the same period last year. For the year, EchoStar posted total revenue of $5.7 billion, up 19% over the $4.8 billion reported in 2002. Net income for 2003 was $224.5 million, compared with a net loss of $852 million the previous year.

New products from Theater Automation WOW! Sworn to "Changing the way America buys Home Theater," TAW has launched some intriguing new products. Among them are the "Revolution" three-chip DLP projector, delivering 1800 ANSI Lumens brightness and .64 ANSI Lumens black levels for a "true 2700:1 contrast ration measured at the screen."

The Revolution is color-wheel free and is said to be designed for "the client that wants a 9" CRT performance without the CRT size, sound, reliability, and serviceability problems." The compact, 47 pound unit allows point convergence preventing color fringe and has no internal scaler, but is sold with the "Rock Pro," external scaler via DVI. The pair will soon be a Firewire equipped, according to the company.

The Rock Pro video processor is software based and upgradeable in both hardware and software over the Internet. The Rock Pro has TAW's exclusive "Pixel Perfect De-Interlacing (PPD)" and includes TAW's exclusive "Judder X-Terminator algorithms that provide the lowest pan judder in the industry." Additional MPEG scrubbing, anti-aliasing and poor reception algorithms are on the horizon as upgrades. The ROCK PRO features external field installable inputs including HDSDI, HD/SD YUV/RGB/HV, DVI and Firewire (IEEE1394B). The Rock Pro is said to be compatible with "any combination of inputs up to 4080."

TAW also offers the "DigiLink II," a DVD player with 10-bit SDI output. The DigiLink II plays "just about any format disc including SACD, DVD Audio, NTSC/PAL R/W and many more. The unit has an RS232 port for external control, both coax and optical digital outputs. 6.1 analog output with 30-bit DACs. subwoofer output, speaker size, and LFE control. Like other TAW products, the DigiLink II is "100% upgradeable."