1/10/2008

Porn Providers Rethinking Next-Gen DVD Plans

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The adult film industry is still taking a wait-and-see approach to the Blu-ray /HD DVD wars. But while Blu-ray’s perceived costs have pushed some companies into the arms of the HD DVD camp, Warner Bros.’ decision last week to exclusively support Blu-ray has some thinking that the end of HD DVD is nigh.

Executives in the adult-film industry spoke Wednesday during the opening day of the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo 2008, which briefly overlaps with the more mainstream Consumer Electronics Show ending Thursday.

“It could be a real sign that things will shift,” Jeff Thill, director of video operations for the Hustler Video Group, said about the Warner decision. Thill said he sees no advantage of one format over the other, but is “leaning Blu-Ray” after Warner’s announcement.

The Blu-ray camp, led by Sony, has been fighting Toshiba and its HD DVD format for years in a battle reminiscent of the VHS versus Betamax battle. In that fight, Betamax maker Sony’s refusal to work with the porn industry helped usher in a VHS victory when the adult industry capitalized on the burgeoning popularity of VCRs and video rentals.

Hustler had some success recently with the Blu-ray release of Jenna Haze Oil Orgy, said Thill, who was on hand to showcase Hustler’s latest releases at the annual AVN Adult Entertainment Expo.

The company packaged the “Jenna” disc with an HD DVD and standard version in case users had trouble with Blu-ray, but has thus far not received any complaints. In March, Hustler will release its latest “Barely Legal” DVD in the Blu-ray format, he said.

Plasma TV makers surge back after being written off

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Given up for dead less than a year ago, plasma TVs are making a comeback, with manufacturers boosting sales forecasts amid a continued shortage of LCD TVs and surging demand in developing countries.

“Plasma isn’t going to disappear,” said Jeff Kim, an analyst at Seoul’s Hyundai Securities. “It is still competitive in large formats, and will compete until 2010.”

In less than two years, plasma-display technology has gone from dominant format to afterthought, then back to a viable option. In early 2006, plasma was the cheapest and most available choice in the 40-inch flat-panel TV market due to lower production costs and an ability to make larger panels.

But only months later, LCD makers ramped up large-size production and quickly overran the market with LCD screens. Plasma makers then saw prices plummet and profits vanish.

South Korea’s Samsung SDI and LG Electronics, the world’s second- and third-ranked plasma panel makers, were particularly hard hit in 2007 due to price falls.

Plasma screens use tiny charged gas bubbles to display images and more natural color, while liquid crystal displays (LCDs) use crystals sandwiched between glass and a back-lit unit. Plasmas offer crisper picture quality but use more power and are heavier; LCDs offer brighter images but can be blurry.

Now, plasmas are on an upswing again, as flat screen TVs are snapped up in wealthy and developing countries alike.

Rain and shine hit Google Maps and Google Earth

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Two of the most useful online services have got to be maps and weather.

With this in mind, The Weather Channel Interactive is offering a new mapplet for Google Maps that lets people add customizable weather layers to maps and see weather data on Google Earth .

One click and you can see the clouds over San Francisco on Google Maps. Pop-up bubbles provide more detailed information like current conditions including temperature, humidity, wind speed and UV Index. You can also find links to forecasts and track storms.

The weather information combines data from Doppler radar, satellite, lightning strike detection, computer models and climate profiles.

The weather mapplet is in the Featured Content section in the My Maps utility on Google Maps, while the data is in a weather layer on Google Earth.

The Best Of CES 2008

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

For the third year in a row, CNET presented the Best of CES awards here at the International Consumer Electronics Show. Thirty gadgets earned nominations, and the 12 lucky award winners have been announced.

Matsushita to change name to Panasonic

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Japanese electronics maker Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. said Thursday it will drop the name of its charismatic founder and become Panasonic Corp. to strengthen its global image.

Matsushita President Fumio Ohtsubo acknowledged it was a tough decision to give up the Matsushita and other brand names the company has built with consumers and employees for 90 years.

But he said the value of the Panasonic brand had suffered because the company had stuck with the old name.

“We must create more than what we are giving up,” he said, speaking from Osaka headquarters to reporters in the company’s Tokyo office via a video feed.

The name change was approved at a board meeting Thursday and will become effective Oct. 1, pending approval at a shareholders’ meeting in June.

New satellite promises better broadband

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

A satellite due to launch in three years promises to expand high-speed Internet services to rural Americans who cannot get access through cable or phone companies.

ViaSat Inc. bills its forthcoming ViaSat-1 satellite as the world’s highest-capacity broadband satellite. The company said the new satellite should provide at least 10 times the capacity of those in orbit today, largely by using the spectrum more efficiently.

That means each customer could get faster speeds and more customers could be served in any given area, Chief Executive Mark Dankberg said.

He said satellite broadband providers have been reaching their limits in some of the more populated rural regions, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania - places where people are more likely to know others with broadband and thus would want it, too.

ViaSat announced a contract this week for Loral Space and Communications Inc. to build the new satellite, to be launched in early 2011 and serve the United States and Canada. A European counterpart, Eutelsat Communications’ KA-SAT, is set to launch in late 2010 using similar technology.

Wi-Fi Camera Card Gets a CES Prize

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

A memory card that wirelessly sends pictures from a digital camera to a computer - letting you skip the tedium of plugging the camera in to upload images - got bragging rights Wednesday at the International Consumer Electronics Show.

Eye-Fi Inc.’s wireless card beat nine other contenders for the top spot in the traditional Last Gadget Standing session, a breezy and informal CES contest staged by Yahoo Inc.’s technology section. The winner is determined by the volume of audience applause.

The $100 Eye-Fi card, which has 2 gigabytes of memory, uses Wi-Fi to instantly zap pictures to computers and photo-sharing Web sites. The company, based in Mountain View, Calif., announced earlier at CES that it had a deal to get its technology into memory cards made by Lexar Media.

Porn gets its own home set-top box

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

You could sum up the state of TV at the International Consumer Electronics Show this way: New delivery methods will let people watch pretty much anything, anytime, on gorgeous flat-panel displays.

At the adjoining Adult Entertainment Expo, which opened here Wednesday, the message is: We KNOW one thing people will choose.

Miami-based entrepreneur Estefano Isaias is using the adult expo to debut Fyre, which he is billing as the first set-top box to deliver DVD-quality adult movies on demand to home televisions. The Fyre simply has to be plugged into an Ethernet port in a broadband connection. Another plug goes into the TV, and voila.

If it’s not your thing, consider at least the technical achievement. A mainstream service from Vudu Inc., which works in a similar way as Fyre, has about 5,000 movies available. Fyre has 20,000 and is still expanding

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