It's been a rough season for some in the e-commerce crowd, as several consumer-electronics Internet startups find themselves amid changes. Last week, CyberShop.com announced that it will close the e-tailing sites CyberShop.com and electronics.net (created as a joint venture with Tops Appliance City, which is now under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection) and sell these operations' remaining retail assets. At the same time, the company says it will launch an "Internet incubator" through the establishment of Grove Street Ventures to attract and develop startup Internet companies.
It would seem almost reasonable to imagine that your next stereo receiver or preamp could have an "intel inside" sticker on the front. Last week, software company Be made several announcements that it hopes will not only bring such a future to consumers, but also place itself at the center of the Internet-connected home-entertainment equipment market.
Visitors to the Listen.com website will find a headline on the home page: "Your Guide to MP3 and More." MP3 recordings, while a big hit with young music fans, have not been a favorite of the music business. The key to Listen.com's financial future as a download site is likely whatever ends up falling under "and more."
Last week, the Consumer Electronics Association reported that sales of audio products during November constituted the largest monthly increase since August 1994. Total revenues for the month reached $901 million, representing a 16% increase over last year's figure. The CEA adds that November's sales brought total year-to-date sales to $7.5 billion—2% ahead of the same period last year.
What began as a seemingly random collection of songs became a classic animated movie. Yellow Submarine was recently remastered and reissued on DVD and CD, and has now become the latest in a string of virtual-reality theme-park rides: Beatles fans visiting Berlin's Potsdamer Platz can travel through Pepperland at The Beatles' Yellow Submarine Adventure.
Last week, Command Audio announced $56 million in new funding from several media, technology, and venture capital companies for its audio-on-demand service. The company says that the new funding will help fuel the rollout of their entertainment and information service to major US markets in the coming year.
Last week, Tweeter Home Entertainment Group announced that it has reached an agreement in principle to acquire United Audio Centers, located in the Chicago, Illinois area. United Audio describes itself as a seven-store specialty consumer electronics retailer with annual sales of approximately $48 million, and says it has been in business in the Chicago market for over 40 years. The companies expect to complete the transaction on or about April 1, 2000, and note that the agreement in principle to acquire United Audio is subject to various terms and conditions, as well as to regulatory approval.
The buzz about digital audio downloads from the Internet would lead one to think that the only way we'll be buying music in the not-too-distant future is through the Web. But the reality this past holiday season looks quite different. Reuters is running stories saying that there was "No Santa for the Internet Music Industry," and record companies attempting to get online are having a tough time (see related item). MP3 for Dummies author Andy Rathbone states bluntly: "It [the digital music business] hasn't taken off as much as analysts expected," and EMI Records' Jay Alan Samit laments, "this year, over a billion songs were downloaded. None of our artists got paid."
At this year's recent CES in Las Vegas, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced the first 50 inductees into its Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame, chosen from the nominees by a panel of 11 media and industry professionals.
Digital perfectionists Meridian obviously pulled out all the stops on their new flagship speaker product, the DSP8000. Checking in at $45,000/pair, the eight-driver Digital Active design is expected to hit the market sometime in March. Meridian claims the three-way powered speaker has a 24/96 digital input on the back and processes the digital signal internally with two 100MHz DSP engines operating with 24/192 resolution. Also on display were the new DSP33s, also Digital Active but more modestly priced at $4500/pair.