You know a product is uncommonly designed when each of its successors looks and functions pretty much like the original. Such is the case with the latest revamp of the Sonos multiroom audio system. All the latest changes are inside the product or the software or are related to third-party services linked to the product. But that doesn’t mean they’re insignificant.
It appears the Blu-ray format may finally be picking up steam. At CES, Andy Parsons, president of the Blu-ray Disc Association, described 2008 as a banner year for Blu-ray sales, and the numbers appear to back his claim. Fourth quarter sales saw 28.6 million Blu-ray sales, up significantly from 9.5 million a year prior. There are now nearly 11 million Blu-ray capable players in the U.S., although 6 million of those are PlayStation 3 consoles.
By comparison, in the same three year time frame after release, DVD players totaled 5.4 million units, not far above all non-PS3 Blu-ray players. And with 40 million homes equipped with HDTVs, there's plenty of room for Blu-ray player sales to grow. Helping to do that, 18 new Blu-ray players were announced at CES, including an HDTV with a built-in player by Sharp.
Despite Blu-ray's recent success, Microsoft reiterated it has no plans to integrate Blu-ray capability with its Xbox 360 console. According to Robbie Bach, Microsoft's president of Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices Division, the decision comes down to a combination of not enough users requesting a Blu-ray player, and because it wouldn't help "in the core of what Xbox does, which is gaming."
Odds are you’re carrying at least one or two devices that double as a portable media player. We’d also bet that if you’ve spent any time at all trying to watch video on such a device—be it a cell phone, personal media player, smartphone, laptop, or pretty much any other device that’s not a DVD player—you’ve experienced compatibility problems. Right now, you need a thorough understanding of the codec, resolution, and container capabilities of all your devices in order to perform an advanced task like ripping a video for use on an alternate player or streaming content from your PC to, say, your Xbox 360 (by the way, we show you exactly how to do that here).
Hit the jump to learn more about the future of media playback.
Blu-ray might not be cheap, but LG is doing everything it can to make the high-definition technology more appealing to consumers still feeling burned over HD-DVD's seemingly untimely demise. LG's BD300 already integrates Netflix-streaming capability, and not only will that carry over to LG's upcoming Blu-ray players in the first half of 2009, but the company says it will also add CinemaNow and YouTube functionality to its new decks.
"As millions of U.S. consumers view and download movies or TV shows through the Internet, they are demanding easier ways to access content and more home entertainment options," said Tim Alessi, director of product development, LG Electronics USA. "From Blu-ray to instant streaming from Netflix to CinemaNow and YouTube, LG is bridging the gap between packaged media and video-on-demand services to provide entertainment solutions for consumers' demand for content."
Blu-ray sales haven't exactly been scorching since HD-DVD's kicked the bucket, with consumers seemingly content to make do with upconverting DVD players. But as broadband service continues to get faster, streaming media has started to emerge as a viable contender in the high definition movie market, leaving many to wonder if digital downloads can co-exist with Blu-ray. It appears so, if LG's upcoming lineup is any indication.
No pricing or availabilty information on the new players has yet been mentioned.
Remember when your great-great-great grandparents used to trek barefoot through miles of freezing snow in the scorching hot desert just for the privilege of purchasing a music CD from the music store that sat on top of a mountain? Maybe that's slightly exaggerating the situation, and while many of you still prefer to own physical media, downloading tracks has become the norm when it comes to purchasing groovy tunes. According to statistics compiled by Will Page, chief economist of the MCPS-PRS Alliance, and Andrew bud, the head of mobile software company mBlox, there are roughly 13 million songs available for download. But only a small fraction make up the majority of downloads.
With so many songs to choose from, you might think the wealth is being spread around. But surprisingly, just 52,000 songs make up for 80 percent all music purchased online. The distribution becomes even more lopsided when looking at albums, with 85 percent of bands and singers who released an album in 2008 not having sold a single copy.
"There is an eerie similarity between a digital and high-street retailer in terms of what constitutes an efficient inventory and the shape of their respective demand curves," Andrew Bud told the Times. "I think there's something more going on there: a case of new schools meets old schools."
What are you listening to that might be off the beaten path? Post your favorite non-mainstream hits below and help your fellow readers expand their music collection.
The death of VHS may be old news, but now the cassette format has officially been ejected from the movie market. According to the Los Angeles Times, the last major supplier of VHS tapes has shipped its final truckload, driven by Ryan J. Kugler out of a Palm Harbor, Florida warehouse to Who-Cares, USA.
"It's dead, this is it, this is the last Christmas, without a doubt," said Kugler, 34, a Burbank businessman. "I was the last one buying VHS and the last one selling it, and I'm done. Anything left in a warehouse we'll just give away or throw away."
Meanwhile, DailyTech reports that things might finally be looking up for Blu-ray with "signs of quantifiable success." The news outlet points out increased sales in the high definition format, such as in Britain where consumers bought 462,500 Blu-ray discs in November, an increase of 165 percent from October. Blu-ray's share of the optical disc market is expected to double in France next year, and Europe expects to account for 2.5 million Blu-ray player sales in 2009 without factoring in Playstation 3 console sales.
Some Neflix subscribers are finding that their pricey Blu-ray player has been sitting around with nothing to do. That's because Netflix doesn't have enough Blu-ray titles to go around, particularly when it comes to hot new releases. It's not uncommon for a movie to sit in a subscriber's queue for a month or more with an expected availability listed as "Long Wait." Bummer.
Cnet talked to Steve Swasey, a Netflix spokesperson, about the problem, who said part of it has to do with studios not providing enough Blu-ray copies of new releases that the company would like get. But it isn't always the fault of the studios.
"There is an expense to that," Swasey said. "These things cost money. We deploy money where we think it's going to be most efficient to keep subscribers and investors happy. It's always check and balances."
Not all subscribers can be happy hearing Swasey lay the blame on the cost, considering that Netflix started adding a $1 surcharge for Blu-ray renters back in October. Jessie Teitz, Neflix's VP of marketing, said the surcharge was to cover the "significant cost difference" between Blu-ray and standard DVDs, which brings up another tidbit that active subscribers can't be happy about. When there aren't enough copies to go around, users who rent less frequently jump to the front of the line.
"What we're doing is giving new releases to the person who hasn't rented as much," he said. "We've been doing this for a couple of years and fully disclose this in our terms of agreement. If we have a shortage of titles we do what we think is equitable and give the title to the person who hasn't rented as much or who hasn't gotten as much enjoyment from the service."
In short, the $1 surcharge that all Blu-ray renters pay is going towards not enough Blu-ray copies, which are then doled out to infrequent renters.
Hit the jump and tell us whether you agree or disagree with how Netflix is handling Blu-ray movies.
According to the latest entry in Google's blog, the word "magazine" is derived from the Arabic word 'makhazin," meaning storehouse. So what would you call an online storehouse of magazines, both new and old, and accessible for free? We call it a kick-ass idea, one that is now part of Google Book Search.
"Today, we're announcing an initiative to help bring more magazine archives and current magazines online, partnering with publishers to begin digitizing millions of articles from titles as diverse as New York Magazine, Popular Mechanics, and Ebony," Google wrote on its blog.
Fans of Popular Mechanics can peek all the way back in time to May 1872 and read what Rev. T.W. Fowle had to say about Science and Immortality. And then continue to get your geek on by sifting through back issues of Maximum PC, which goes all the way back to October 1998. Who won the Pentium III versus Athlon showdown? The CPU Showdown starts on page 59 of the October 1999 issue.
Google isn't finished adding articles and promises that over time you'll find more and more magazines appear in Google Book Search results. Even still, there's an impressive collection already available and you could easily waste an afternoon, or longer, just digitally flipping through old issues of your favorite rags.
In a move that would make FCC Chairman Kevin Martin proud, YouTube laid out several goals for itself, half of which had to do with clamping down on sexual content. Rest assured, YouTube has "been thinking a lot lately" about how to make the entire video viewing experience a more pleasant one, and here's what it came up with:
Stricter standard for mature content: YouTube's pulling in the reins on censored material and in addition to pornographic images and sex acts, which are already removed when flagged, the video sharing site is also redefining what it considers "sexually suggestive." Among other criteria, any video intended or designed to arouse viewers will be considered sexually suggestive.
Demotion of sexually suggestive content and profanity: Videos that fall under the above category and/or contain profanity "will be algorithmically demoted" from YouTube's 'Most Viewed,' 'Top Favorited,' and other browser pages.
The two other changes YouTube plans to make involve improving its thumbnails so that the image actually represents the video, and enforcing more accurate video information.
Like, dislike, or are indifferent to the changes? Hit the jump and post your thoughts.
While the news of the 400GB Pioneer disc isn’t necessarily new, the fact that it’s made it to production is. Just today at the IT Month fair in Taiwan, Pioneer announced that their 400GB Blu-ray disc would be hitting mass production sometime in 2010.
The disc’s ability to pack so much storage is all thanks to a breakthrough in the material used to create reflective layers. According to Pioneer High Fidelity Taiwan, this also allows the pick-up head of the disc to match that of current Blu-ray technology, allowing the discs to be played using current drives.
Pioneer’s plan to release the disc to the public in 2010 is followed swiftly by the release of rewritable discs in 2010-2012. Though, 1TB discs will quickly follow in 2013, according to the current roadmap.