The German website, heise online, has reported that Toshiba is getting ready to release a firmware update for its first generation HD DVD players, the HD-A1 and HD-XA1. This update is supposed to speed up the boot time, eliminate crashes and improve the black levels when using HDMI. Here's part of the article, translated from German:
Toshiba placed a first firmware update for its Hp-DVD-Player HD-A1 available in the USA and Japan and HD-XA1 finished. The update is to be distributed be able to be downloaded in the countries mentioned by Toshiba on a Disc or shortly on-line. In addition one must connect the Player by its Ethernet interface with the Internet. The update accelerates among other things the start of the operating system of the Players which is based on Linux, eliminates some drive assembly problems and crashes and improves the black value rendition at the HDMI connection. Helvetica, sans-serif,Announcement
If your HD DVD player is connected to the internet, you'll be able to download it directly from Toshiba. Otherwise CD's with the update will be available. More information can be found here. Add a comment
Here's an interesting bit of news. According to an article at Reuters, Pioneer is pushing back the North American launch of their Blu-ray players to some time this fall.
Japanese electronics maker Pioneer Corp. (6773.T: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Tuesday it would postpone the North Amercian launch of next-generation DVD players using Blu-ray technology to this autumn from its previous launch schedule of June, citing a delay in the development process.
With Sony's Blu-ray player reportedly delayed until August and Pioneer's until fall, its now up to Samsung. Hopefully they can ship their player before the first Blu-ray titles hit store shelves on June 20th. If you'd like to read more, the entire article can be found here here. Add a comment
Over the weekend, the Japanese newspaper, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, reported that Pioneer was going to stop developing DVD recorders. Instead, the company is looking to form a partnership with Matsushita (Panasonic).
Pioneer Corp will stop developing DVD recorders on its own, as stiff price competition is causing the firm to lose money in this segment and is looking to link up with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co to cut costs, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported, company sources said Saturday.

Pioneer plans to continue developing next-generation DVD recorders based on the Blu-ray format, promoted by Sony Corp and Matsushita, by purchasing key microchips and software from Matsushita, the business daily said.
As far as I can tell, this only applies to Pioneer's set top DVD recorders and not their PC based drives. As we find out more, we'll let you know. In the mean time, the entire article can be found here. Add a comment
PC World has reported that BenQ unveiled a prototype of their new Blu-ray Disc burner at Computex. According to the article, they plan to introduce the drive later this year.
"We have a prototype ready and we are going to ship [the product] before the end of the year," BenQ Chairman KY Lee said in an interview. The prototype drive was unveiled at a Taipei news conference the same day. It is a standard "half-height" drive designed for use in desktop computers, and can also write DVDs and CDs.

Blu-ray Disc is one of two new optical-disc formats vying to replace DVD for high-definition content. Blu-ray Disc and the competing HD DVD format aren't compatible, so consumers face a choice between the two or waiting until a clear victor emerges. BenQ has put its weight behind Blu-ray Disc, but Lee said its support isn't necessarily exclusive.
BenQ did not specify a price. However, if its like other Blu-ray drives, it won't be cheap. If you'd like to read more, the entire article can be found here. Add a comment
According to DigiTimes, Taiwanese drive manufacturers are expecting 18x DVD burner sales to catch up with 16x models in 2007.
Demand is increasing for 18x DVD burners with sales volume in 2007 expected to catch up with that of 16x models, currently the mainstream writing speed, according to sources in Taiwan's optical disc drive (ODD) industry.

Toshiba-Samsung Storage Technology (TSST) this month will launch its 18x Super Multi DVD burners, which have a writing speed of 12x for the DVD-RAM format, higher than the 4-6x of other Super Multi models, the sources indicated. Japan-based Plextor launched a 18x DVD Dual burner in February of this year. Lite-On IT, Taiwan's largest ODD maker, is poised to begin volume production of 18x DVD burners next quarter.
If you'd like to read the entire article, head on over to DigiTimes. Add a comment
RCA has announced that they've started shipping their new HD DVD player, the HDV5000. Here's part of their press release:
Officially endorsed by the DVD Forum industry organization as the next high-capacity DVD disc, the HD DVD format featured in the HDV5000 delivers sharper, more detailed picture performance than standard DVD discs. Moreover, the HD DVD format opens new avenues of interactivity including enhanced on-screen menus, scene searching, directors' commentaries and the potential for online shopping. For consumers with large libraries of digital disc content, the RCA HDV5000 player provides backward compatibility with current DVD discs as well as audio CDs that have been available for over 20 years.

The HDV5000 supports various video formats including MPEG2, MPEG4/AVC and VC1. The unit plays back DVD/DVD-R/-RW/DVD-RAM discs and mp3 audio files from CD-R/CD-RW discs.
RCA's HD DVD player can also upconvert standard DVD's to 720p or 1080i. The HDV5000 is shipping now for a suggested retail price $499. More information can be found here. Add a comment
Yesterday afternoon, Sony announced their latest A/V receiver, the STR-DG1000. Designed to optimize Blu-ray and other HD sources, the STR-DG1000 includes features like dual HDMI active intelligence, 7.1 channel sound and support for resolutions up to 1080p.
Whether it's 1080p pass-through, eight channels of uncompressed audio, smooth video switching, simplifying set-up of a surround sound system, and automatically adjusting performance, this new A/V receiver is optimized for a full high-definition experience.

The STR-DG1000 receiver has several HD enhancing features, beginning with dual HDMI active intelligence, which automatically detects and receives the best possible video and audio signals from connected devices. This all-digital path from source to display also handles 1080p resolution and up to eight channels of uncompressed audio.
The STR-DG1000 will ship in August for about $800. More information can be found on Sony's website. Add a comment
InterVideo has announced that Lenovo has decided to bundle WinDVD Creator 3 with their ThinkPad, ThinkCentre and 3000 family of PCs. Here's part of their press release:
InterVideo, Inc. (NASDAQ: IVII) announced today that it has partnered with Lenovo to bundle WinDVD Creator 3, a full-featured DVD authoring package, with select Lenovo notebook and desktop PCs.

Lenovo, an innovative international technology company formed as a result of the acquisition by the Lenovo Group of the IBM Personal Computing Division, is including InterVideo's WinDVD Creator 3 pre-installed with its ThinkPad T Series, ThinkCentre A and M Series, and Lenovo 3000 family of notebook and desktop PCs.
If you'd like to read more, InterVideo's entire press release can be found here. Add a comment
Sony isn't the only company with a Blu-ray equipped PC on the way. Alienware has announced that their new Aurora 7500 and Aurora ALX desktop systems will also feature Blu-ray Disc technology.

Alienware -- the leading manufacturer of high-performance desktop, notebook, media center, servers and professional systems -- will offer AMD LIVE!(TM) branded Aurora(TM) 7500 and Aurora ALX desktop systems, enabling users to consolidate their photos, videos, music, and movies in one place while accessing all of it through their TVs, game consoles, MP3 players, cell phones, and other common digital devices. In addition, Aurora 7500, Area-51 7500, and ALX desktop systems are now featuring Blu-ray storage technology, a breakthrough optical disc format that delivers a maximum storage capacity of 50GB on a single dual-layer disc.
According to Alienware's website, the Aurora 7500 and Aurora ALX will ship in mid-June. More information can be found here. Add a comment
InterVideo and Ulead have announced that their Blu-ray Disc playback and recording software is being bundled with Sony's new BD notebook and desktop PC's.
InterVideo, Inc. (NASDAQ:IVII - News) and its partner Ulead Systems, Inc. (TSE:2487 - News), industry leaders in video, image and next-generation DVD software, today announced that InterVideo Ulead's Blu-ray Disc (BD) playback and recording software are bundled with Sony Corporation's first-to-market BD notebook and desktop PCs, model name VAIO Type A - VGN-AR70B, VAIO Type R - VGN-RC72DPL9 and VGN-RC72DP. InterVideo WinDVD BD for VAIO is one of the earliest BD playback software and has complete support for all BD title formats. Ulead BD DiscRecorder(TM) for VAIO is a video-recording application that allows real-time and off-line recording of standard and high-definition video onto new high-capacity Blu-ray Discs. Ulead DVD DiskRecorder(TM) Move SDK is a built-in application which transfers recorded TV programs to Blu-ray Discs or DVDs and incorporates content protection.
If you'd like to read more, InterVideo's entire press release can be found here. Add a comment