A single standard for terrestrial digital radio is still somewhere over the rainbow. Despite pressure from broadcasters to form an industry alliance, leading developers of the new technology are intent on pursuing their own courses, attendees learned at the 2000 National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas in mid-April. Executives from USA Digital Radio and Lucent Digital Radio, the two biggest players in the sector, told NAB members that their design and testing programs are still in early stages of development, too soon for accord.
In this issue you can find a full report from the 2000 International Consumer Electronics Show, held last January in Las Vegas. By contrast to the 1999 CES, the Y2K Consumer Electronics Show was considerably more upbeat, both according to my own observations and to those experts who specialize in judging the size of Las Vegas conventions: the city's taxi drivers. Yes, there were some rooms where lonely exhibitors were more than usually pleased to welcome a visitor from the press, but to judge from the home-theater exhibits at the Las Vegas Hilton's Convention Center and the specialty audio exhibits at the Alexis Park Resort Hotel, as well as the companies exhibiting at the splinter T.H.E. Show at the St. Tropez, the joint was jumping.
How can you tell an audiophile from a normal person? Well, given a list of names like "Haydn, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and Mahler," the normal person might respond, "Composers." The audiophile's response is likely to be "Loudspeakers from Vienna Acoustics." Anyway, that's my association when I see these names, which may tell you something about my state of normalcy.
For lifelike audio presentation in your living room, what could be better than the real thing? When it comes to putting the sound of a piano in your home, nothing comes close to, well, a real piano. For more than a century, several companies have marketed player pianos, first using rolls of punched paper, and most recently sophisticated MIDI programs. But if a real piano represents the ultimate audio performance in your living room, who has the ultimate real piano?
Last year, Internet commerce schemes were the darlings of venture capitalists and small investors alike. For months, it seemed that almost any business plan, no matter how half-baked, could attract millions of dollars with the simple mention of "online retail sales"—otherwise known as "e-commerce" or "e-tailing."
The struggle for position in the Internet-based audio downloading market continues unabated. On the format front, Sony has recently announced several deals to bring its ATRAC compressed-audio format to the Web, while IBM and Liquid Audio announced last week that they have entered into a strategic relationship intended to "advance the digital music marketplace" with content-management tools.
The age of downloadable digital music is showing signs of maturing. Territory that was explored by hobbyists, pirates, and startup companies eager to stake their claims will soon yield to the irresistible force of multinational conglomerates.