The HD Week That Was

To borrow a phrase from Charles Dickens, it was the best of times, and the worst of times for high definition TV last week. Consider these noteworthy events, as they went down in roughly chronological order. Our subjective ratings of impact follow.

Opening the 20th annual Sound and Vision show in Britain, organizers called the launch of high definition discs a “shambles” marked by “a destructive format war” and a lineup of movie titles that are “rubbish.” Their suggestion? Consumers should boycott both formats and buy upscaling conventional DVD players. Only one high end British gear maker, Meridian, has committed to make high def players, of the HD-DVD persuasion. (Minus 2)

Atari and Konami will strive to support all HD resolutions, up to 1080p, in forthcoming PS3 and Xbox 360 game releases, said representatives at the New York Comic Com. Konami announced two titles for PS3 that fill the bill – “Hellboy” and “Metal Gear Solid 4.” ( Plus 1)

Visitors to Marriott hotel properties will soon be treated to an eyeful of HD. By the end of the year, Marriott aims to have at least 25 percent of its rooms equipped with 32-inch LCD HD displays, as well as custom input panels so guests can connect digital cameras, video games and laptop computers. A split screen function will even allow them to check email while watching a TV show in HD. (Plus 1)

Come Summer, Sony will introduce a more affordable Blu-Ray player, the $599 BDP-S300, shared Home Products division chief Randy Waynick at an executive roundtable prior to Sony’s line showing. The player offers DVD upscaling (not currently offered in the PS3) and CD playback (not in the first gen $999 Blu-Ray player). But like the latter, there’s still no Ethernet connector. As a result, system upgrades will have to be done by disc transfers, and there’s no chance for implementing on-line “BD-Live” interactivity which should someday be a big selling feature for the format. Another Sony player coming later this year, the BDP-S500, is likely to add the Internet connectivity, however. Waynick predicted total sales of standalone, non-gaming HD players –both Blu Ray and HD-DVD – will be “at least 250,000” this year, and maybe as much as twice that, if the price war between the formats gets fiercer. No doubt, it will, with players likely to dip to $400 by year’s end. Also at the roundtable, Sony’s Steve Haber predicted that high definition recording camcorders will dominate the industry by 2008. (Plus 3)

Xbox fan sites were rife with chatter of an upgraded 360 game system with on-board HD-DVD playback capability and a much larger capacity hard drive. While neither confirming nor denying, a Microsoft spokesman said the company has been pleased with its 110,000 plus sales to date of external HD drives, and allowed that the company is doing its best to encourage smaller software companies to put out content in the high def disc format. Then at week’s end, a curiously timed New York Times piece touted Xbox Live’s growing array of downloadable movies and TV shows, including HD movies and TV shows , which sure clog up the current 360’s 20 GB drive quickly. (Movie downloads are also in the works for PS3, which boasts a 60 GB HD in the $599 model. ) Some official Xbox 360 news is expected from Microsoft at this week’s Game Developers Conference. (Plus 2)

Fearing negative repercussions from voters, two highly placed Democrats in the House of Representatives warned that the planned February 2009 cut off for analog broadcast TV signals may have to be reviewed. Commerce Committee chairman Dingell and Telecom Subcommittee chairman Markey chided previous, Republican -led consumer education plans for the digital TV transition and the Congressional foot dragging on a program to distribute rebate coupons to over-the-air viewers who’ll have to purchase ” target=_blank>set top converter boxes. (Minus 4)

On Wednesday, a landmark FCC mandate kicked in. From that day forward, all TVs, VCRs and DVD recorders shipped interstate with analog NTSC tuners must also have digital ATSC tuners. The only way makers can get around that is to sell video products lacking any tuners, whatsoever. Major electronics companies have all cleared their warehouses of non-compliant products, said sources, though retailers probably have a “several month” supply of analog-tuner-only gear on hand, which they can continue to sell until there ain’t no more. Bottom line – if you want to buy a bargain priced analog VCR , TV or video disc recorder – which will still work with cable and satellite TV tuners after the Feb. 2009 cutoff – it’s now or never, folks. ( Plus 2)

In a conference call with analysts, executives of Echostar’s Dish Network promised to up their game in HD channel delivery, pricing and equipment. “We’re not going to take a backseat to anybody,” declared chairman Charlie Ergen. Dish currently leads the pack with national HD channels at 31, “and we can add to that” (as well as local HD channel delivery) “as we move through 2007,” said the company’s #2 guy, Carl Vogel. (Plus 2)

Drawing from a library of 4,100 theatrical titles and hundreds of hours of television content, Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer Studios will launch the MGM HD channel by the end of the year. Cable, satellite and telco companies have all been “receptive” to the channel, said MGM executive Douglas Lee. 1,200 of its movie titles have already been readied for HD showing, “the strongest HD library of any of the studios,” added Lee. (Plus 2)

Source: AllthingsHiDef

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HD Report provides news, commentary, and information about 4k & HD channels, programming, digital media, Blu-ray, technology, video gaming, and more. We have been a Google News partner since 2006, and can also be found on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.

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