Warner Bros Boosts Blu-ray Format

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This week Blu-ray technology took a major step towards winning the format war when Warner Bros. announced that it will start to exclusively release its products on Blu-ray disks from June 1st this year.

Coupled with the announcement of exclusive backing from one of Holloywood’s major studios, a further dent was put in rival format HD DVD’s plans to become the industry standard format when both Paramont and Dreamworks studios altered their existing contracts with HD DVD makers to allow them to terminate their partnership if rival Warner Bros. supported Blu-ray.

After Microsoft and Intel gave their backing to HD DVD, and a host of European studios making the format their preferred choice, HD DVD had a larger catalogue of films and looked to be the favourite to come out as the dominant format. Since then however Walt Disney, 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and now Warner have already fixed their choice on Blu-ray, bringing 70% of Holloywood productions to Blu-ray discs.

About 60 percent of Warner’s sales of U.S. high-definition discs were Blu-ray titles and the other 40 percent were HD DVS, said Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group.

Outside the U.S., the divide was far wider, with Warner’s Blu-ray discs outselling titles in HD DVD in Britain and Japan, among other markets, Tsujihara said.

Warner Bros., owned by Time Warner Inc., was the only remaining studio releasing high-definition DVDs in both formats.

“The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger,” Warner Bros. chairman and Chief Executive Barry Meyer said in a statement.

In yet another blow to HD DVD, Microsoft has also retracted the exclusivity of to plans to make an HD DVD add on for its Xbox consoles by considering including Blu-ray technology within the consoles themselves. The rival Sony’s PlayStation 3 console already uses the Blu-ray technology.

Mobile VoIP to Expand in 2008

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Concluding The Shelf’s five part series featuring technology that could make it big it 2008 The Shelf examines mobile VOIP.

VoIP is a Voice Over Internet Protocol service that enables users to make voice calls across the internet. VoIP involves sending voice information in digital form in discrete packets rather than by using the traditional circuit-committed protocols of the public switched telephone network (PSTN). The major advantage of VoIP is that by using the internet telephony users can avoid the charges existing telephone networks already have in place.

In addition to IP, VoIP uses the real-time protocol (RTP) to help ensure that packets get delivered in a timely way.

VoIP has already taken of in a huge way with the help of increasing numbers of domestic broadband connections, and users are already seeing the savings VoIP can provide, especially with international calling. Big names like BT are now even incorporating VoIP calling into their broadband and call packages.

With savings already being made in the home through VoIP, challenging existing domestic telephone networks, it is only a matter of time until VoIP services trickle into mobile phone networks too. Thanks to the increasing number of handsets fitted with 3G this look a certain development in 2008.

All that is technically required for mobile VoIP is a 3G speed mobile data service, a technology is readily available in handsets currently on the market. The next stumbling block is preventing mobile networks from prohibiting VoIP mobile communication, after all they want to protect their revenue stream. The only additional hold up for mobile VoIP after this is the requirement for a soft client on the mobile handset that a customer wishes to use. Skype is one example, and recently teamed up with 3 to release the first VoIP handset.

The catch here is the VoIP calls still have to travel over a mobile network, (unless made through wireless hot-spots or the like) so whether this remains true VoIP is a question the pessimists among us may like to ask. Truephone is a good example here.

WIMAX to Challange Wi-Fi in 2008

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Our penultimate technology in The Shelf’s predictions list, tipped to make it big in 2008, is a wireless technology that is aimed at providing high speed broadband over vast distances.

Already big in the US with Spirit and with the backing of Intel, WIMAX is also being trialled in countries including Nigeria, but is yet to take off in Europe and 2008 could be the year that situation changes.

Standing for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, the WIMAX name was created from the WIMAX Forum which was created in 2001.

In Milton Keynes the first commercial WIMAX service has just been launched with the aim of making the city the first WIMAX -powered wireless internet city.

The WIMAX project was first trialled in the city in 2006, and unlike wi-fi technology, WIMAX offers multi-megabit speeds over areas many kilometres in size instead of a few meters.

The two driving forces of internet modems are broadband, and wireless. WIMAX aims to combine the two by delivering high speed broadband internet access over a wireless connection. Because of its ability to be used over long distances, it is an effective “last mile” solution for delivering broadband to the home, and for creating wireless “hot spots” in places like airports, college campuses, and small communities.

WIMAX is based on the IEEE 802.16 Air Interface Standard, delivering point-to-multipoint architecture, making it an ideal technology to deliver broadband to locations that would traditionally be to difficult or costly to provide for with cables or wi-fi.

‘The so-called “last mile” of broadband is the most expensive and most difficult for broadband providers, and WiMax provides an easy solution.’ – wisegeek

The technology requires a tower much like cell phones and instead of delivering a tr4aditional ISP connection dividing the bandwidth between customers, WIMAX uses microwaves to establish each individual connection.

WIMAX provides a greater range and more bandwidth than wi-fi and so will become an increasingly big player in providing end user broadband connection as investment is finally being made in the infrastructure of the technology in the UK.

Internet TV On Demand In 2008

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The next product featured on The Shelf as part of a five part series for technologies that will make it big in 2008 is internet TV.

In the past home internet speeds have hampered internet TV, as connections have not been fast enough to deliver a reliable service.

This trend is however beginning to change, with half of all UK homes now having a broadband with an average speed of 4 megabits a second. These internet speeds are also increasing, and in 2008 ADSL2+ comes online, offering internet connection speeds of up to 24 megabits a second.

Because of the developments in broadband speed we are also seeing more and more internet protocol television services, and it is not just the big players like BT vision and Virgin Media who are gunning for this market, plenty of smaller operators are also offering a range of services.

Mobile phone operator O2 has launched a successful service in the Czech Republic, and plans to launch in the UK in 2008. Orange is also tipped to enter the market soon too.

iplayer was launched in Beta in 2007 as part of the BBC’s offering, a service that allows people to catch up on the corporation’s output over the web. In November a partnership was also drawn up with ITV and Channel 4 to launch a joint on-demand service.

In terms of domestic broadband sign ups Tiscali recently stated it is signing up broadband customers at a rate of 250 a day, showing the desire UK customers have to get broadband connections in the home.

Mobile PC’s Tipped for 2008

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The next technology that The Shelf will feature as part of our array for technologies that will have an impact in 2008 are Ultra-Mobile PC devices or UMPCs.

There are many devices that have tried to fill the void between PDA and laptop but as yet none have become hugely popular. Having seen a range of devices attempt to break into this market since 2006, improving battery life and lowering costs are playing in favour of UMPCs, two things that have previously stiffled their growth. 2008 could therefore finally be their year this technology begins to really take of.

Coming to mass market in late 2007 we saw a new generation of devices attempt to enter this market, of which the Asus EEE was the most promising costing around £200. The Asus has been tipped by its Taiwanese manufacturers to sell over five million units in 2008.

Run on Linux open source software, this low cost laptop weighs less than a kilogram at 0.92kg, and is smaller than a hardback book at 7″. To save weigh the Asus EEE has no hard drive and instead opts for a 4GB flash memory drive, highlighting the trend for, although much smaller capacity, much lighter data storage devices.

Flash memory drives have been gradually increasing in power, and Samsung recently demonstrated chips that could be used to make 128GB memory cards.

As a result of advancements such as this, flash drive technology is now starting to challenge hard drives as the default storage choice for laptops being more lightweight and portable than their counterparts.

On the back of developments in storage drives Apple are also rumoured to be launching ultra thin Macbooks using flash drives in 2008.

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