Electronics Online News (c): March 3, 2001
By Marjorie Costello, Editor & Publisher
WEEK IN CEON:
From Sony Line Show:
* Sony Plugs Back Into HDTV With Trio For
Fall Equipped With ATSC Tuner/1394/5C
* Hi-Scan 1080i Capable PTVs & Wegas,
Main Line Wega and PTV Summary
* DVD Gets Stylish, DVD Packages Play SACD,
Plus More Multichannel SACD Players
* Targeting Gen Y, MiniDisc Makes Headway,
CD Mavicas Add CD-RW Support
Other HDTV/DTV News:
* Senators Blast Broadcasters' DTV Delay
* DTV Sales Surge In January
* CBS, Mitsubishi Team Up For Final 4 In HDTV
* Curtain Rises On 1st Broadway Show Beamed In HDTV
For Electronic Cinema, Also On Home Sat In HDTV
* Geocast Ends Operations
* Philips Sells Marantz Control
* RadioShack Setting Up Electronics
Boutiques In Blockbuster
FROM SONY LINE SHOW:
SONY PLUGS BACK INTO HDTV
Sony once again chose the same location for its annual press open
house, the emphasis on February 28, 2001 was different from last
year's event at the Sheraton Meadowlands in New Jersey. This year,
Sony spotlighted its DTV efforts and re-introduced new HDTV models
after delaying the sets' market introduction indefinitely last
June. This fall, Sony will market three HDTV models -- all widescreen,
including one Wega direct-view and two rear PTVs. They qualify
under Sony's definition of high-definition TVs since the sets
integrate ATSC tuners, i.Link and 5C copy protection like the
models the company postponed last year.
HDTV trio were joined by more Hi-Scan sets -- both PTVs and flat-tube
Wegas -- that are capable of displaying in 1080i when connected
to set-top boxes. Sony also showcased an expanded Wega direct-view
line, new DVD packages that add SACD playback plus more standalone-SACD
models, a uniquely designed DVD player, and new digital still
cameras that record on CD media. These products are the focus
of this report, with additional new models -- in portable audio,
accessories and other categories -- covered in the next edition.
Sony's new line was also shown to eastern regional dealers at
the New Jersey hotel before moving on to make other stops for
dealer open houses in Chicago and San Francisco in March.
FINALLY GATHERING STEAM
Sony's renewed commitment to HDTV, Vic Pacor -- president of Sony
Electronics' Home Network Products Company -- said, "The
transition to DTV is finally gathering a little steam." Sony
was "plugging back into DTV" because the broadcast industry
had "reached a consensus to maintain the 8-VSB transmission
standard," noted Pacor. According to the Sony official, "It
is our belief that i.LINK (IEEE-1394 interface) is still viewed
as the cornerstone of the digital home networking model not just
by the CE industry but also cable MSOs and
acknowledging that DTVs could feature "additional interfaces
in the future" (in an apparent indirect reference to DVI),
Pacor said that since i.LINK utilizes 5C -- supported by Sony
Pictures and Warner Brothers -- Sony's HDTV models provide the
content community with security. In keeping with previous company
positions, Sony still sees i.LINK -- with its two-way capabilities
-- "as the most important element to turn DTV sets into one
of the four gateways of the digitally networked home of the future,"
and it hopes that by adopting 1394, the company "can spur
industry agreement on this lingering issue," explained Pacor.
decision to bring new HDTV products to market this year was actually
foreshadowed in CEON's recent coverage of Sony Broadcast's stepped
up efforts to sell HDTV equipment to TV stations (CEON, Feb. 17).
In that recent edition, we also noted comments made by top Sony
officials in Japan that changes were afoot in the company's U.S.
HDTV marketing efforts.
fall, Sony will offer three full HDTV models -- with ATSC tuners/1394/5C
-- in its XBR series, and all are widescreen. They include a 34"
direct view with a Wega flat tube, the KD-34XBR2 at $4,000, and
two rear-screen PTVs, the $5,000 KDP-57XBR2 and the $6,000 65"
KDP-65XBR2. Though Sony announced 4:3 full HDTV models last year
-- in PTV and direct view -- the company did not announce any
for 2001 at last week's line show.
second generation of Sony's direct-view Wega HDTV features Digital
Reality Creation (DRC) Multi-Function, CineMotion, and Multi-Image
Driver X (MID-X). Sony's DRC upgrades NTSC broadcasts and DVD
titles to either 960i or 480p resolution, and standard definition
digital (480i) can also be displayed as 960i or 480p. The CineMotion
3:2 pull-down process minimizes motion artifacts caused when 24
fps film is transferred to 30 fps video. When combined with DRC,
the result is more detailed pictures with improved sharpness and
enhanced image dimensionality, according to Sony. New MID-X chipsets
permit simultaneous viewing of NTSC and HDTV side by side with
Sony's Flexible Two Tuner PIP and provide the ability to display
images in 480p.
new HDTV direct-view model also features new 3D digital comb filter
circuitry, two rear i.LINK ports, two component video inputs that
handle 1080i, 480p and 480i sources, a scrolling channel index
and a new bit-map graphic menu system. The new PTV HDTVs share
several of the technologies found in the direct-view HDTV (ATSC
tuners, dual i.LINK ports, DRC, MID-X, etc.). They also incorporate
a new HD "Microfocus" CRT, for improved picture clarity
and sharpness, and a high contrast protective screen with double
anti-reflective coating to reduce screen glare and reflection.
Other features include a fully automatic digital convergence system,
rear and subwoofer outputs and an optical Dolby Digital output.
Hi-SCAN PTVs AND WEGAs
HD-capable 1080i sets (but without ATSC tuners and 1394/5C) --
come in Sony's Hi-Scan series, available in both direct view and
PTV. Sony shipped its first 16:9 Hi-Scan series PTVs this past
fall -- in 57" ($4,499) and 65" ($5,499) -- to fill
a widescreen hole in its line that was left when its 2000 full
HDTV models did not ship. Last week, Sony announced two new widescreen
Hi-Scan models -- a 51" ($3,500) and 57" ($4,000) --
both available in October. The company will also offer its first
43" 4:3 tabletop Hi-Scan at $2,500, and continue to support
4:3 Hi-Scan with new 53" ($2,800) and 61" ($3,300) PTVs models
that also arrive in August along with the 43".
the 40" Wega announced at CES ($4,000, October) -- Sony's
largest direct-view flat-tube TV -- were four more Wegas with
a Hi-Scan chassis. Two each -- in 32" and 36" 4:3 --
are in Wega Hi-Scan and Wega XBR Hi-Scan. The Wega Hi-Scans will
sell for $1,900 and $2,400, and the XBR Hi-Scans for $2,000 and
$2,500, for the 32" and 36" models respectively. All
the Hi-Scan direct views feature DRC and MID-X, with the XBR models
also incorporating CineMotion.
HDTV PRODUCTS: SEEN AND UNSEEN
other HD-related products, Sony's first ATSC/DirecTV HD set-top
($799 without dish) is arriving this month. Last year, Sony was
planning to offer a special i.LINK/5C-equipped DirecTV HD set-top
that omits an ATSC tuner, designed to link with its later postponed
HDTV models. But last week, the company did not announce such
a product for 2001, but it may very well be in the works: At this
point, consumers who buy Sony's new full HDTV models this fall
and want to receive DirecTV's HD (and standard) signals will have
to purchase a set-top that incorporates the requisite DirecTV IRD and a redundant ATSC tuner.
HD-related product not mentioned last week was a device that records
and plays back HDTV signals. Though Sony showed a prototype optical
disc HDTV recorder at CES, the so-called DVR-Blue model appears
several years away from commercialization. Introduction of an
HDTV recorder based on existing solutions -- such as a hard-disk
drive (HDD) or D-VHS -- will to have to await resolution of copyright-related
issues, cautioned Sony officials.Sony currently sells an integrated
TiVo/DirecTV set-top ($399) and standalone TiVo ($399) that record
standard definition signals on a hard drive. The TiVo-based models
will be joined by Sony's first UltimateTV/DirecTV unit -- with
dual satellite tuners -- that is slated to arrive in March at
$449 (including wireless keyboard).
generally about Sony's plans, Vic Pacor declared, "We want
you to know that we're committed to taking a market-driven approach
to DTV product developments. Stay tuned, because we've just begun."
LINE WEGA AND PTV
Sony's highly successful main Wega line of flat-tube TVs, the
company will offer new entry-level FS models and the step-up FV
line in 20", 27", 32" and 36" screen sizes.
New FS and FV direct-view models feature an improved two-way speaker
system, amp and control panel. Most of the models will also incorporate
two-tuner PIP. The 2001 FS and FV models will be available in
July with prices ranging from about $350 to $1,800. Sony's analog
PTVs include the entry-level S and step-up V in 48", 53",
and 61" screen sizes. Also available in July, these PTVs
will sell for about $1,700 to $2,200.
the DVD decks that Sony bowed at CES was a new design -- shown
for the first time last week -- along with two new home theater
packages. Sony moved into the "stylish" DVD category,
introducing the DVD-F21, which is a slim, slot-loading, silver-toned
DVD player that can be used vertically, horizontally or mounted
on a wall.
this fall for $300, the next generation DVD model -- to be followed
by other stylish units later this year -- also embodies a cross
generational appeal, explained Sony. The DVD-F21 can fit into
many environments ranging from a Baby Boomer's livingroom and
office to a Gen Xer's dorm or bedroom -- used as a primary or
complementary DVD player. The model plays CD-R/RW discs, but it
does not include component video or progressive scan outputs.
It features TV Virtual Surround circuitry for connection to a
TV in non-home theater situations and an optional, self-powered
speaker system -- with two speakers and a subwoofer -- will be
sold later this fall at a price to be announced.
SACD INSIDE NEW DVD PACKAGES,
MORE MULTICHANNEL SACD PLAYERS
last year's introduction of its successful "DVD Dream System"
-- Sony's answer to home theater in a box -- the company will
market two new systems in 2001. Both new packages add multichannel
SACD playback as well as other features. The new single- and five-disc
systems center around an integrated DVD/CD/SACD unit with built-in
Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, full digital amp, and offer increased
system power. The $600 DAV-S500, with 280 watts of total system
power, features a single-disc player, while the $800 DAV-C700
is a five-disc model at 350 watts. Both available in July, the
DVD Dream Systems are equipped with five matching micro satellite
speakers for front, center and surround; a passive subwoofer;
and color-coded speaker connectors.
in SACD, but in a dedicated audio component, Sony bowed two new
multichannel SACD players at very different prices, which will
both be available in September. Sony will market a five-disc model,
the $800 SCD-C222ES, in its premium ES series, and a single-disc
player, the SCD-XE670, which at $300 becomes the industry's lowest
price multichannel SACD player. Like the multichannel SACD players
that Sony introduced at CES -- two, five-disc models, including
a $400 mainstream unit and a $1,700 ES -- last week's debuts do
not support DVD playback. Sony said that introductions in other
home AV categories would be addressed in future announcements.
GEN Y, MD MAKES HEADWAY, VAIO NEWS
Pacor as speakers were Mark Viken, president of SEL's Personal
Network Solutions Company, and Ron Boire, president of SEL's Personal
Mobile Products Company. Though the products Boire showcased will
be covered next week, we will mention now that Sony is targeting
Gen Y, ages 12 to 24, described as, "The fastest growing
segment and now representing a quarter of the U.S. population,"
by the Sony official. According to Boire, "They also spend
about $153 billion annually or $84 per week of their own money"
and Sony will continue its Walkman campaign during 2001 to reach
reported that MiniDisc finally took off in the U.S. after Sony
repositioned MD in 2000 as a digital music player that could record
from the Internet. He cited NPD Intelect figures from December
that ranked Sony's MD model MZ-R70PC as, "The number one
selling digital music player both in units and dollars."
According to Boire, "Portable MD sales for the industry were
up 34%, driven by the success of PC-to-MD bundles."
Viken -- based in San Diego with PNSC -- noted that Sony's notebook
business, "Has reached and maintained the number two market
share at retail both in units and dollars." This month, Sony
is launching a year-long national TV and print campaign to support
its VAIO efforts that helps, "Consumers understand the enjoyment
technology can bring to their lives." Turning to digital
imaging, after noting the new models Sony had recently introduced
at PMA, Viken announced the two newest members of the CD Mavica
MAVICAS ADD CD-RW SUPPORT
2001 models are less expensive than 2000's initial CD Mavica model
and they also add the ability to use CD-RW media along with CD-R
discs. The MVC-CD200 ($800) and MVC-CD300 ($1,000) -- with 2.1
and 3.3 megapixel resolution, respectively -- follow Sony's first
CD-based camera, the MVC-CD1000, introduced last year at $1,300
(CEON, June 17, 2000). Both of the new models will be available
in June, and will sell for around $800 and $1,000, respectively,
and both feature 3X optical/6X digital zoom, with the CD300 incorporating
a Carl Zeiss lens.
new CD Mavica cameras, like last year's model, record images to
an 8cm (3") CD-R disc that costs about $5 and provides 156MB
of storage. But they also take CD-RW discs, which run about $8
per disc and have the same 156MB capacity, but can be erased and
reused for hundreds of cycles. With 156MB capacity, the CD can
store more than 1000 VGA still images and over 90 minutes of MPEG
video. The cost-effective media is also directly compatible with
virtually any PC, which simplifies image transfer.
week, we turn to Sony's portable audio models -- including its
new MDs and colorful Psyc line aimed at Gen Y -- plus other products.
BLAST BROADCASTERS' DTV DELAY
Sony plugged back into HDTV, there were other encouraging pieces
of news last week on the HDTV front -- which we will get to shortly
-- even as Washington legislators blasted broadcasters for DTV
footdragging. During last week's Senate Commerce Committee oversight
hearings on DTV, chairman Senator John McCain and other members
criticized broadcasters and suggested steps to speed the transition
so the government can reclaim spectrum worth an estimated $70
billion. Senator McCain minced few words when he told the NAB's
representative, "Congress gave you the spectrum and you pulled
a classic bait and switch." In a question that was more like
a statement, he asked, "You're going to reach 85% of the
homes in America by 2006? You're going to comply with the legislation?
There's no one in America who believes that."
suggestions included providing consumers with incentives to buy
new TV sets and charging broadcasters rent for using analog spectrum
after the 2006 deadline for ending NTSC broadcasting. Experts
testified that the switch to DTV could take until 2020 unless
Congress and the FCC act. The broadcasting industry's NAB called
for requiring all new TVs to include DTV tuners, a move McCain
and others questioned. Gary Shapiro later issued a statement reiterating
CEA's opposition to a DTV tuner mandate, saying, "We estimate
that such a mandate could add hundreds of dollars to the cost
of almost every television set, pricing many lower-income Americans
out of the market and severely slowing the DTV transition."
urged Congress to: insist that broadcasters transmit an amply
supply of HDTV, ensure that any copy protection solutions protect
noncommercial home recording rights, and direct the FCC to make
sure that cable systems carry broadcast DTV programs. However,
Senator McCain admitted that there was no consensus now in Congress
to pass new DTV legislation. But the committee will hold more
hearings in hopes that more members of Congress will "recognize
that is was a serious mistake to give away the spectrum,"
SALES SURGE IN JANUARY,
FINAL FOUR IN HDTV COURTESY OF CBS/MITSUBISHI
to more upbeat DTV news, CEA reported that January 2001's figures
indicated that DTV sales continue to grow. Factory-to-dealer sales
of DTV products exceeded the 80,000 unit mark this past January.
Sales of DTV televisions and monitors reached 81,629 units, representing
a 234% increase over January 2000, with dollar sales of more than
will sponsor NCAA men's basketball Final Four and Championship
games in HDTV on CBS. Last year, Thomson underwrote the sporting
event when it was held in Indianapolis. Mitsubishi has been sponsoring
events in HDTV on an case-by-case basis as part of a continuing
relationship with CBS, which included this past September's U.S.
Tennis Open. CBS Sports' coverage of the college basketball event
will be broadcast live in 1080i on Saturday, March 31 (5:30 to
10:30pm ET) and on Monday, April 2 (9:00 to 11:30pm ET) from Minneapolis.
RISES ON FIRST BROADWAY SHOW BEAMED IN HDTV FOR ELECTRONIC CINEMA,
ALSO ON HOME SAT IN HDTV
Saturday, March 10 the curtain will rise on the first non-film
program distributed for electronic cinema display. Broadway Television
Network (BTN), which specializes in shooting and distributing
Broadway musicals, will launch BroadwayCinema day and date with
its PPV telecast of "Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical"
starring David Hasselhoff. Members of the public will be able
to view the production at theaters in seven cities on Texas Instruments
DLP projectors. Consumers, with the required home equipment, will
also be able to see the show at home in HDTV via satellite on
EchoStar and DirecTV, as well as on "standard definition"
& Hyde was recorded by BTN at Broadway's Plymouth Theatre
using 10 HDTV cameras and over 70 microphones. BTN plans to distribute
three more shows for digital cinema exhibition. The technology
team behind the presentation includes the DLP Cinema technology
group at Texas Instruments as well as Boeing Digital Cinema, QuVIS,
Barco Digital Cinema, Christie Digital Systems and Dolby Laboratories.
on current information, the HDTV satcasts will be at 8pm and 11pm
(ET), but we suggest you check the EchoStar and DirecTV listings.
The electronic cinema presentations -- priced at $19.95, the same
as the home satellite PPV event -- will be presented at theaters
operated by National Amusements, Cinemark USA, and Harkins Enterprises.
The show goes on at 7pm and again at 10pm on March 10 at most,
but not all, of the theaters. If you are interested in attending,
check your local movie listings -- and confirm the time in the
zone -- if you live in one of the metro areas included.
Amusements, outfitted with DLP projectors by Barco and Christie,
will offer the event in four of its Showcase and Multiplex Cinemas
in metro Boston (Randolph, MA), greater New York/New Jersey (Edgewater,
NJ), Cincinnati (Springdale, OH) and northern Virginia/Washington,DC
(Merrifield, VA). The presentation will also be shown by Cinemark
USA in Dallas suburb Plano and Cleveland suburb Valley View, and
by Harkins Theatres in Phoenix suburb Peoria. Both chains have
DLP installations provided by Technicolor, which has been acquired
by Thomson Multimedia.
future of datacasting via the DTV spectrum was dealt a blow when
Geocast Network Systems announced on March 1 that it has suspended
business operations. The Menlo Park-based company said it is currently
in discussions to sell off its assets.
we have reported, Geocast initially planned to distribute its
personalized data and information service on broadcasters' terrestrial
DTV signals to home PCs (CEON, Dec. 11, 1999). Geocast's investors
included station groups Belo and Hearst-Argyle, Thomson, game
publisher Electronics Arts, Philips, Liberty Media, and several
others. Thomson's planned Geocast PC peripheral/DTV receiver was
originally slated for mid-2001. Last year, facing a number of
DTV-related issues (including questions about ATSC's modulation
scheme) and competition from other broadcaster-backed datacasting
operations, Geocast pursued other digital TV distribution. In
October 2000, the company announced that EchoStar would carry
the Geocast service to PC users via satellite -- giving Geocast
national coverage beyond its 40% terrestrial DTV reach. Geocast
hoped to launch both its terrestrial- and satellite-based data
services during Q3 2001.
week, in announcing that Geocast was ceasing operations, company
chairman/CEO Joseph Horowitz explained, "To reach the final
stage of execution we needed additional funding. The current market
environment was simply not conducive to our efforts in this regard."
SELLS MARANTZ CONTROL
on March 1, Philips said that it would give up control of Marantz
to Marantz Japan Inc. (MJI). MJI will buy from Philips the Marantz
trademark and the European and American sales organizations. In
addition, Philips intends to sell 1.5% of its stake in Marantz
Japan Inc., reducing its ownership from 50.5% to 49%. MJI currently
owns the distribution rights for Marantz-branded products in Asia,
is considered the third largest premium AV brand in the world,
according to the official statement, "and has been growing
consistently over the last few years." Both Philips and MJI
believe it is important to have single ownership of the global
Marantz business in order to improve its value chain, said the
joint announcement. According to Kazuya Suetake, MJI CEO, "The
new situation provides Marantz with the freedom it needs to fully
pursue its own interests." The companies said that existing
working relations will be maintained in many areas, with SACD
SETTING UP ELECTRONICS
BOUTIQUES IN BLOCKBUSTER
-- the CE chain famous for featuring other companies' products
in stores within its stores -- will introduce another version
of the concept. But in this case, RadioShack is the company coming
in and setting up shop, or "mini-Shacks," in another
chain. Through a newly announced strategic alliance with video
rental chain Blockbuster, RadioShack will establish and staff
"boutiques" within up to 5,000 Blockbuster stores. RadioShack
will pay a license fee to Blockbuster for each location and both
companies will share in the cash flow and other economic benefits.
RadioShack stores within Blockbuster will sell consumer electronics,
telephony services, high-speed Internet access and emerging connectivity
technologies along with "other fun gadgets." according
to the announcement. RadioShack's current store-within-a-store
partners in these categories include RCA, Sprint and Microsoft
though specifics regarding the involvement of these companies
were not announced. But Blockbuster and RadioShack did say, "A
wide selection of RadioShack's most popular product and service
offerings will be featured" noting, "specific inventory
for the stores will be determined as the program moves forward."
Apparently, Blockbuster's DirecTV sales efforts -- established
through kiosks in many of its stores last summer -- will now be
integrated into the RadioShack stores.
MORE WOMEN, TEENS
RadioShack-Blockbuster alliance follows Best Buy's acquisition
of the Musicland software chain, which like Blockbuster, attracts
more women and teens than traditional CE chains. Both Best Buy
and RadioShack, by establishing a presence in software chains,
are expanding beyond their mainly male and adult customer base.
RadioShack's Blockbuster boutiques, like Best Buy's plans for
Musicland's software stores (such as Sam Goody and On Cue), will
also mean that more CE products will become available at more
retail locations throughout the country.
and Blockbuster will launch the first phase in about 130 selected
Blockbuster stores this summer in four markets: Las Vegas, Tulsa,
Austin, and Norfolk VA. The second phase, national rollout, is
expected to occur in 2002. The size of the RadioShack merchandising
areas will vary depending on the size of the participating Blockbuster
store, but will range from kiosks to 600-square-foot sections.
but related to RadioShack, the company recently announced that
2000 was its best year in history in terms of profits. RadioShack
reported that its adjusted net income grew 21% to $367 million
during the 12 months ended December 31, 2000.
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