Last week Microsoft entered the Internet audio fray by announcing the release of their Windows Media Technologies 4 platform, which the company claims introduces a "new standard for CD-quality audio" on the Internet. Windows Media includes Windows Media Player, Windows Media Services, Windows Media Tools, and Windows Media Audio SDK.
While all of the attention was on SDMI and watermarking earlier this month, Diamond Multimedia, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and the Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies (AARC) quietly announced the settlement of all pending litigation related to Diamond's Rio portable Internet music player. (See previous story.) All three parties say they have dismissed their legal actions, and have announced the mutually satisfactory resolution of outstanding legal issues.
Selling consumer-electronics gear over the Web has begun to glow white-hot in the last year, with dozens of companies turning up the competitive burners (see related story). It will likely be a tough business, with the inevitable shake-outs and mergers taking place as retailers test their strategies and brands on the public's pocketbooks.
Audiophiles have a mess on their hands. In a somewhat surreal press conference in May, a half dozen audio luminaries—representing Sony, Philips, and several titans of the high-end recording business—stood on a HI-FI '99 stage looking awkwardly at the audience.
Time for early-adopter audiophiles to start saving those pennies. Panasonic has just announced delivery dates and suggested pricing for two DVD-Audio players: the Panasonic DVD-A7 and the Technics DVD-A10. Beginning this October, Panasonic says that both models will be shipped to dealers nationwide, with the DVD-A7 retailing at $999.95 and the DVD-A10 checking in at $1199.95.
The DVD Forum announced July 28 that it will start verification services for products based on the DVD-Audio format (see previous article) at some of its authorized DVD Format Verification Laboratories starting September 1999. According to the Forum, format verification is conducted to establish the conformity of DVD products with DVD formats created by the DVD Forum, and allows manufacturers of successfully tested products to use DVD logos as proof of conformity.
The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) appears to be the antidote to many a record executive's worst audio poison: legions of young music fans downloading digital audio files off the Internet and passing them around with no regard to copyright restrictions. But what might be the answer to some companies' prayers could prove to be the Big Brother nightmare feared by others.
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).
Last week, satellite-to-car radio broadcaster CD Radio announced an agreement with mobile electronics manufacturer Alpine Electronics for the design and development of satellite radio receivers. Under the terms of the agreement, Alpine says it will design and develop three-band (AM/FM/CD Radio) audio receivers for installation by car manufacturers. The company also plans to design and develop satellite radio receivers for sale directly to consumers in the electronics aftermarket.
One would think that the Internet was growing crowded with online music retailers such as CDnow/N2K, Amazon.com, EveryCD, and Tower Records, just to name a few, all hustling CDs. But the lure of gold in them e-commerce hills is hard to resist. Last week, barnesandnoble.com jumped into the fray and announced the launch of its own Music Store, featuring what the company describes as the first "online classical music superstore." Notably late to market with its online bookselling franchise, barnesandnoble.com hopes to gain ground against arch-rival Amazon.com by expanding beyond books and better focusing on niche markets.