Weekly News Roundup (13 January 2008)

Good afternoon. This is DVDGuy for Digital Digest and you’re watching the Weekly News Roundup Show. I hope you are enjoying your weekend wherever you are. Now here’s the news roundup for this week.

Starting as usual with copyright news of sorts, Sony demonstrated at the CES the ability to use the PS3 to make copies of selected Blu-ray titles, for use in the PSP or Memory Stick. While not specifically stated, the copies would most likely be DRM protected to prevent further copying/uploading, and it appears this might not be an example of AACS managed copy, but something else entirely. This is a good start in terms of making DRM more consumer friendly, although we will most likely end up paying more for the right to do this. And just before we move onto HD, Blu-ray backers Lionsgate has come out to say publicly their reason for supporting Blu-ray: more DRM! This is not really new or surprising, as a win for Blu-ray was always going to be a loss for consumer rights, with the region coding, BD+ and various other anti-consumer “features” of Blu-ray. It is surprising that, with DRM being so unpopular right now that even staunch DRM supporters Sony BMG has just dumped it, that Lionsgate would actually admit that DRM is the main reasons for supporting Blu-ray, not the PS3, or advanced features, bigger storage space. Even though Lionsgate admit that DRM is unlikely to stop piracy and that the best way to fight it is offer better features and pricing to make official versions more attractive, they are still supporting a format mainly because it has more DRM.

And on that note, we move onto HD. Oh boy, what a week it has been. Blu-ray supporters are still celebrating the death of HD DVD (slightly premature, IMO), while the wires has been full of news about the imminent about face of Paramount and Universal to ditch HD DVD (or at least ditch HD DVD exclusivity). Both companies have come out with statements of support for HD DVD, although Warner did the same not too long ago and supporting HD DVD does not mean not supporting Blu-ray. The Warner affiliated studios such as HBO and New Line have also come out with Blu-ray exclusive stances, which is not surprising considering they are owned by the same parent companies and that New Line has yet to release any HD DVDs of note. Meanwhile to add insult to injury, adult studios Digital Playground and Hustler have both ditched their HD DVD exclusive stance to support Blu-ray as well – although you will note that we broke the Digital Playground story 3 weeks ago, so this is more of a “kick them while they’re down” type of story, rather than an actual reaction to Warner’s decision. The good news continues for Blu-ray with the announcement of a sub-$300 Blu-ray Profile 1.1 player from Funai, hopefully a sign of things to come in the hardware pricing department. Not so good news for early Blu-ray adopters, especially those that aren’t aware of profiles, is the BDA’s attitude towards those that have helped it to possibly win the format war. Their “They knew what they were getting into” statement and revelation that the incomplete specification that is Profile 1.0 was rushed to the market to compete with the finalised specification of HD DVD, smacks of a statement that comes from someone who cheated and then got away with it. It seems good guys do finish last (and by “good guys”, I mean the people that were able to release a complete hardware specification, didn’t think consumers needed region coding and passed on shoving more DRM down the throat of users – you can read more of my ranting in my previous blog). Microsoft, ever so careful as to not stick their foot in too deep into the HD war, has distanced themselves from the Warner decision by indicating that a Blu-ray add-on drive for the Xbox 360 might be a possibility if HD DVD fails. Not exactly what Toshiba wanted to hear from one of it’s main partners. However, Microsoft appear to be not working on the Blu-ray add-on drive yet, and one might take quite a long time to be produced, if ever at all, due to the complications of BD-J. Actually while researching BD-J versus HDi, I came across this interesting forum post that dissected a story about the history for the HD format war – a very interesting read with input from Amir Majidimehr, who works for Microsoft and with some very inside knowledge about the formation of the HD formats. Did you know that the Blu-ray Technical Committee recommended HDi for use in Blu-ray instead of the harder to programme for and slower BD-J?

But it’s nice to see that there are still some companies that are supporting HD DVD, blank media makers Ritek being one of them. Ritek demonstrated some quite funky new HD burning technologies, including the ability to make dual sided, dual-format (Blu-ray on one side, HD DVD on the other) blank media, as well as do-it-yourself HD DVD combos that contain both HD DVD (single and dual layer) and DVD content on a single disc. Home made combo discs can be quite useful for home users and businesses as they transition from DVDs to HD media (and don’t want friends/family/customers from getting a disc that they can’t play). Moving away from the HD format war to another format war, Panasonic has demonstrated wireless HD using their imaginatively named WirelessHD technology. This kind of technology, in my opinion, is extremely useful and I will write a blog entry on this next week. And when I say “another format war”, there is a rival but most likely incompatible system called Wireless HDMI. Panasonic also demonstrated the world’s largest plasma TV, at a massive 150″, or 9 times the picture area of a 50″ screen. All you need to get one is a second mortgage for your home, a Toshiba micro nuclear power plant to power it, a third mortgage to build the extension to your home to fit the damn thing in, and you’re set for some awesome TV viewing.

On to gaming, Sony has claimed that they have sold 1.2 million PS3s during the holiday period. Meanwhile, Microsoft is claiming another type of record, claiming they will break revenues records for a game console in 2008, after selling more than 17.7 million Xbox 360’s so far. There is no doubt that the Xbox 360 is the most profitable console on the market today, mainly due to high games sales. The December NDP figures should be released soon so we can have a better look at how the 3 main consoles fared during the last month of 2007.

And that’s the news for the second week of 2008. We will be back with more roundup next Sunday, so until then, have a good week. This is DVDGuy signing off.


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