Weekly News Roundup (10 February 2008)

Okay, I’ve learnt my lesson. No more controversial intros for the roundup. Just to be clear, if I ever unintentionally mention I might quit writing this feature in the future, I’m most likely only kidding, unless I follow up the statement with THIS IS NOT A JOKE!! In fact, I don’t think you should take anything I write here seriously, since 90% of the stuff I write are actually complete lies.  Or perhaps the last sentence was a lie. Or was the last sentence a lie …

Copyright vs consumer rights is being fought around the globe, this time a Japanese perspective on the issue of Digital TV recordings and copy protection. Sometimes content owners just need to take a step back and see the bigger picture, because if they had their way, half of the products on the market would be “illegal”, and the other half will be filled with DRM. The RIAA, being the leaders of the Senseless Copyright Brigade (SCB), talks about forcing computer hardware and software manufacturers to implement “piracy filters” to prevent people from transferring and playing pirated music. Luckily, the people in the IT industry, who have been affected by piracy more than anybody else, will take a more sensible approach and ignore RIAA’s request. The most recent example being Verizon rejecting another SCB member, the MPAA’s, request for filtering. Good for Verizon, and I hope people reading this will buy their products and use their services to support them.

It’s been nearly two weeks since the Blu-ray free movies promo has ended, and there does not seem to be any signs that a new promotion will start in place of the expired one. The BDA seems to have stopped trying on the promotional front, maybe because they think they’ve won, or because they are saving up for one big final push. It’s not that great being a Blu-ray owner at the moment, with only two rather pathetic sales on at Amazon (one for 6 titles only, the other for 10 titles from Fox, but only a 10% discount on normal Amazon prices). If this is what we should expect if Blu-ray wins the day, then I for one hopes the format continues on for a bit longer so I can buy more cheap movies. Netflix is the most recent of companies to suggest higher HD movie prices are on the way once the war is over, so the lost revenue during the war can be recouped. On the other hand, the HD DVD people have been doing a lot more on the promotional front, with the Superbowl ad now aired (although by all accounts, it was a pretty lame effort), player price drops (which has been better received, with hardware and software sales both up compared to the horrible weeks following Warner’s announcement), movie discounts at Amazon (a new 140+ title 50% off sale is gathering immense interest) and in store promotions (at least here in Australia). Microsoft dropping the price of the Xbox 360 add-on drive is just another part of the promotion, and sales of the drive at Amazon went up an amazing 71,900% after the price cut. Perhaps some will view it as “too little too late”, but there’s still a long time between now and June, when Warner officially drops HD DVD, and anything could happen in between. Then there is also the issue of the Chinese market, which HD DVD has been making huge investments in with both an official Chinese HD format (CH DVD), and also staying out of the Chinese HD DVD market to allow Chinese manufacturers to profit from HD DVD player sales. I know for a fact that the Chinese government does not like Blu-ray (or HD DVD, for that matter) due to the excessive royalties and licensing fees, and so going with the royalty free CH DVD format is their aim, which might be even cheaper than producing DVDs since DVDs have licensing costs too. For a comprehensive and detailed view at the HD format war, the Warner’s decision, the CES, the past, present and future, there is a good article on AV Forums (not to be confused with AVS Forum). There are lots of good points made in the article, as well as some facts that weren’t so clear before – regardless of which side you’re on, it’s worth a read.

And it’s not been great time for Samsung, after being threatened with a lawsuit over their poorly designed BD-UP5000 dual format player, they are now being sued proper for their allegedly “defective” BD-P1200 Blu-ray player in a class action lawsuit. The article goes on about BD+, but the real issue is behind an update to BD-J, which Samsung promised to provide over a firmware update, but has not done so for some reason, causing certain discs to be unplayable. As a owner of a brand new Toshiba HD-XE1 player, I’m extremely pleased to be able to buy such a player (for $USD 490 with 11 free HD DVD movies, which is a steal for a player of this quality). There is currently no Blu-ray player that can match the quality of the XE1 and it’s almost identical twin, the XA2, even without considering price, and that’s something the BDA will have to address soon. A fully featured Blu-ray Profile 2.0 player with Reon upscaling, made by a company known for high end equipment such as Denon or Onkyo, is what many Blu-ray owners are waiting for. But it will take a long time before such a player can be made available, since according to a Denon rep, the reason they have not released a Profile 2.0 player is because Profile 2.0 is not even finalized yet. The worrying thing is that, because Profile 2.0 is not finalized and new things can still be added to it, the PS3 is just a proprietary connector away from being ever able to achieve Profile 2.0 compatibility. For example, if the BDA decides WirelessHD has to be a mandatory part of 2.0, then the PS3, which I have recommended to everybody as the safest bet for Profile 2.0, will never get certified. Let’s hope the BDA come to their sense and allow the PS3 to be 2.0 compatible.

Not much gaming news this week. EA predicts the PS3 will be the top selling player in 2008, while Activision predicts the Xbox 360. Microsoft says they “own” GTA IV due to the exclusive content. And other such PR nonsense, which I won’t even dignify with links (you can search Google News if you’re really desperate). There is one piece of interesting news, reporting that game arcades are suffering because people can now play the same type of games at home on the Wii. An unintended victim of the console wars, no doubt.

That’s it for this week, same time, same channel, next week (I think I’ve used this joke before).


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