RealTime IT News

Microsoft Gets Cozy with DVD Players, Car Stereos

Microsoft Corp.'s first bit of news out of the gate at the 2002 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was that some DVD player makers have gotten cozy with Windows Media for their new hardware. The announcement comes a month after DVD chip manufacturers, representing 90 percent of the burgeoning industry, voiced their support for the technology.

Specifically, Panasonic and Apex Digital Inc. Monday will offer attendees a peek at the first DVD players supporting Windows Media Audio (WMA), which enables entertainment-hungry consumers to play back more than 22 hours of music from a single CD and, for those players that support DVD-R, allows them to store almost 250 albums on a single DVD. Following suit, Shinco and Toshiba Corp. vowed similar Windows Media support for some of their pending DVD players this year.

The news is considered by Microsoft to be sweet enough that Bill Gates, who will keynote at CES in Las Vegas Monday night, will demonstrate how a Panasonic DVD-RV32 player works with WMA. This player will hit shelves across the U.S. in February.

Susan Kevorkian, research analyst for IDC, said digital media is becoming increasingly important for consumers' home entertainment experiences.

"DVD player support of Windows Media Audio, which is notable for producing small file sizes and high-quality playback, will allow consumers to enjoy CDs burned with WMA files via high-fidelity audio systems that many people have connected to their DVD players," Kevorkian said in a statement.

Just how did DVD sales fair this past holiday season? According to figures from the Consumer Electronics Association, November factory sales of DVD players increased 105 percent to just shy of 1.8 million units, with year-to-date unit sales of DVD players up 50 percent, compared to the same period in 2000.

The WMA/DVD news was the base of the iceberg for Microsoft, which also said Monday that four major car audio specialists -- Pioneer, Kenwood, Blaupunkt and Aiwa -- have added Windows Media Audio support for certain car stereo models.

Lead Product Manager for the company's Windows Digital Media division Mike Aldridge told InternetNews.com that with highly-compressed WMA, these newfangled systems sport more than 22 hours of music per compact disk. That's equivalent to a nice, long car ride from New York to Miami for those keeping score.

Aldridge said Blaupunkt currently offers two such stereos -- the San Jose MP41 and the MP3000, for $399 and $339, respectively. Aiwa offers consumers its CDC-MA01 for $349.95, while Kenwood and Pioneer will air their WMA-capable systems in April and March, respectively.

Microsoft's announcements came as Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia denied the firm's motion to delay scheduled remedy hearings in the antitrust case brought by nine states.