Times are obviously tough for personal computer manufacturers, who, in the quest for new sources of revenue, are increasingly dipping their toes into consumer electronics waters. The latest firm to join IBM, Intel, and Compaq (see previous) in the rushing stream is Hewlett-Packard which announced last week the expansion of the company's drive into the living room. HP says that its new initiative is intended to "blend interactive product innovations with easy-to-use services and offer consumers new ways to enjoy digital music, streaming video, and Internet information in the living room."
It might stand to reason that the first market for DVD-Audio discs will likely be consumers who already own DVD-Video machines. It also stands to reason that a large number of consumers who have set up a DVD-Video player in their systems have also added surround-sound speakers in their audio/video rooms, and are looking for new software to take advantage of the extra channels.
Maybe it's only fair: Consumer electronics giants like Sony have been selling personal computers lately, so computer manufacturer Compaq announced last week that it will begin selling audio products. Joining Intel in making the transition from the computer industry to consumer electronics, Compaq has now redefined itself as "a global enterprise technology and solutions company."
More good news for budget-conscious audiophiles who are waiting for that all-in-one universal high-resolution audio player: Yet another chip manufacturer is announcing a decoder IC that will allow new DVD machines to untangle just about any audio file format. Last week, LuxSonor Semiconductors joined the growing list (see previous) of chip manufacturers that are including both DVD-Audio and SACD in one package.
With the proliferation of audio and video formats based on the 5.25" disc (CD, DVD-Audio, SACD, CD-R, CD-V, DVD, etc), buying a universal player that can decode anything thrown at it is many a consumer's Holy Grail. But to date, the vast majority of manufacturers (Pioneer being a notable exception) have been taking sides, choosing to exclude either SACD or DVD-Audio playback from their machines.
When is a music sample not a sample but an actual product? Are those 30-second audio snippets used at online music-retailer websites and in stores considered samples and therefore covered under fair use copyright laws? These are some of the questions that the National Association of Recording Merchandisers are asking the copyright office as another battle heats up between the record labels (represented by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)) and the music retailers (represented by NARM).
According to a new comparison of online music business models and companies prepared by Red Herring Research, Napster simply cannot exist without the complete consent of the recording industry, and the company's recent attempts to appease the copyright infringement concerns of the industry have so far failed. The study also finds it highly unlikely that the company's peer-to-peer model will find success, given the history of its relationship with the recording industry, its declining membership, and impending competition from services like MusicNet and Duet.
Some long-time Stereophile readers were outraged when the magazine put a photo of a computer soundcard on its cover in September of 2000 (click here for the review and controversy). And then, John Atkinson added insult to injury by doing another soundcard review last November. Some readers may have been scratching their heads about why we did it, but at least one manufacturer is getting the message.
A quickly established favorite among music fans, the CDDB website provides comprehensive information for tracking who and what appears on just about any CD in existence (see previous). But as users of the service are discovering, the company that now maintains the database, Gracenote, is starting to change the rules of access.
Could the average computer hard drive soon be able to store the equivalent of over 80 DVD-Audio discs or 600 CDs? Last week, IBM announced that it is using just a few atoms of what it has termed "pixie dust" to push back the data storage industry's most formidable barrier, and will effectively quadruple disk drive densities in the next two years.