Last week saw a flurry of announcements in the online audio and video streaming business, capped off by Yahoo!'s acquisition of Broadcast.com. Yahoo! says it has signed a definitive agreement with Broadcast.com whereby Yahoo! will issue 0.7722 of a share of Yahoo! common stock for each share of Broadcast.com common stock. In addition, all outstanding options of Broadcast.com will be converted into Yahoo! options. The acquisition is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 1999 and is valued at around $5.7 billion, including $4.8 billion in Broadcast.com common stock and $900 million in stock options.
As first reported April 8 in EETimes, Sony has made known its plans for the first generation of Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD) players, to be released in Japan this May. For the last several months, Sony has been suggesting that the SACD format would be going head to head with the competing DVD-Audio format, despite overtures from the DVD-Audio Working Group to join in a single all-encompassing specification.
According to a report released last week by Cahners In-Stat Group, a high-tech market research firm, the market for personal digital music players using audio compression technologies will experience a tremendous increase in growth through the next several years. Nearly $800 million in player sales are expected in 2003, spurred largely by widespread Internet access. The report also states that products in this segment will initially focus on downloading technologies like MP3, and over the next 12 months consumers should expect to see more features integrated into the players such as FM tuners, increased storage capacity, and security systems like Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI).
Forget the SACD/DVD-Audio format wars, a more interesting (and potentially more devastating to consumers) battle is brewing among companies racing to add copy protection technology and other restrictions to compact discs.
Could this be a record executive's dream come true and the end of the need for watermarking as we know it? CantaMetrix has announced the further development of a new technology, MusicDNA, that the company claims is capable of identifying and tracking the billions of existing as well as new MP3 files on the Internet and providing an exact accounting for the copyright, "thus enabling legal file sharing and linking value-added data to songs."
Recent moves by record labels to add restricted-use technology to their compact disc releases has raised the ire of many a consumer, leading some to call for boycotts or worse (see this week's Soapbox). Late last year the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) issued a statement saying that the major labels have gone too far in restricting consumers' "fair use" of copyrighted material.
"I don't get why some audiophiles still think that saving data using a lossless compression scheme like FLAC or Apple Lossless sounds any different than an uncompressed CD file," says Sonos founder and VP of Sales and Marketing Thomas S. Cullen between bites of white fish shish kebab. "It's just mathematics, and the results are sonically identical, but you save half the space on your hard drive."
Last week, Florida consumer-electronics retailer Sound Advice announced that it has reached an agreement in principle to acquire Scottsdale, Arizona–based Showcase Home Entertainment, LLC, a privately held "upscale" retailer of consumer electronics and custom design services. Sound Advice, founded in 1974, currently operates 24 Sound Advice stores and four specialty stores under the Bang & Olufsen name throughout Florida.