Aaron Dobbins

HD DVD: Blu-ray Has Problems

Having finished speaking to Blu-ray, BetaNews sat down with a representative from HD DVD to discuss how the Microsoft-backed format will compete with Blu-ray. Toshiba HD DVD expert Mark Knox gave a thorough explanation of the optical disc drive technology, and said that because of Blu-ray's complicated design, HD DVD will triumph in the format war.

Blu-ray's difficulties, Knox explained, begin with the technology itself, and the idea that its 50GB dual-layer capacity is superior to HD DVD's 30GB. Through the use of better codec technology, such space is not actually needed for high-definition movies. In fact, Blu-ray admitted to BetaNews that most discs won't go beyond the 25GB mark.

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Beyond TV 4 Adds HD, DivX Recording

SnapStream on Thursday released the fourth major revision of its Beyond TV DVR product, as well as announcing partnerships with three HDTV tuner card manufacturers to both support the new software and jointly market the program to customers.

Beyond TV 4 will now support DivX recording, FM Radio and recording of over-the-air digital and HDTV content. The defeat of the FCC's broadcast flag requirement this summer by an appeals court is making the recording of HDTV content possible, SnapStream said.

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MSN, Associated Press Ink Video Deal

The Associated Press is preparing to roll out a video news service early next year and on Wednesday selected MSN to stream the content and sell advertising before each clip. As part of the AP Online Video Network, members will receive a custom MSN player and up to 50 video clips per day.

Some of the advertising revenue earned by MSN will be shared with members, which include 3,500 newspaper and broadcast outlets. AP will retain full editorial control over the content, despite MSN's involvement, the organization said. Video will be in Windows Media format and MSN will also develop targeted advertising for local AP affiliates.

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Google Upgrades its Desktop to 2.0

Microsoft may be afraid to show its sidebar, but Google apparently has no such qualms. The company on Thursday rolled out the final version of Google Desktop 2.0, its venerable search utility that has morphed into a full-fledged desktop application with scriptable plug-ins.

The free Google Desktop combines search with the Google Sidebar, which can be custom tailored with news, weather, stocks and more. Users can add their own content via RSS feeds and create a photo slideshow using local images or those from a Web site.

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Nokia to Expand N-Gage Game Platform

Since its launch in late 2002, the Nokia N-Gage phone turned handheld gaming console has struggled to meet expectations. Nokia has sold about 2 million of the devices in 3 years, far below its goal of 6 million. But despite the disappointments, Nokia plans to make some changes that it hopes will invigorate the concept.

The original N-Gage model was plagued with design flaws, such as placing the game memory card under the battery slot, which brought bad reviews and slowed consumer adoption. Even after changes were made, pricing has remained a huge sticking point, with games running upwards of $40 USD.

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Microsoft Unveils Photo, Video Suite

Just in time for the holidays, Microsoft on Tuesday took the wraps off Digital Image Suite Plus, which bundles the company's photo editing and organization tool of the same name with Pinnacle Studio 10.0 - a popular video editing application for creating home movies.

Microsoft's answer to Apple's iPhoto, Digital Image Suite 2006, lets users create a photo library using keywords, flags and a "star rating" system, along with effects to pictures such as a black and white filter. RAW images from Canon and Nikon cameras are supported in the latest release.

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IBM Details Xbox 360 Chip Specs

IBM will disclose details of the processor it developed for the upcoming Xbox 360 gaming console at a chip conference Tuesday in Silicon Valley. Microsoft switched from Intel's Pentium III, used in the first generation Xbox, to the PowerPC architecture in 2003.

The chip is a customized version of the regular PowerPC chip and will run at a speed of 3.2GHz. The iteration developed for the Xbox 360 includes three cores, and would be able to run up to two simultaneous tasks at the same time, the company said.

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SanDisk Unveils Low Cost MP3 Player

SanDisk on Tuesday unveiled its m200 series of flash-based MP3 players, the first higher capacity players to break the $100 USD price barrier while ensuring PlaysForSure compatibility. The SanDisk players will range in capacity from 512MB to 4GB.

The company's aggressive price structure could force other Windows-based audio player manufacturers to again lower prices. Many are already hurting financially due to price pressure from market leader Apple.

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Windows Mobile Powered Treo Unveiled

UPDATED In what could be considered a huge win for Microsoft and the Windows Mobile platform, former rival Palm announced Monday a new version of its Treo smartphone running the Redmond company's operating system for mobile devices.

Although not yet named, the new Treo will be carried exclusively by Verizon Wireless when it debuts in early 2006. Palm president and CEO Ed Colligan said Verizon would have exclusive access to the phone at least through the middle of next year.

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MTV Takes to the Web with 'Overdrive'

MTV has begun beta testing a new content delivery system based on instant access to anything and everything entertainment related. Initially delivering six specialized "channels" to its Web-based platform, "MTV Overdrive" will feature news, music, television, movies, and "The Lineup" featuring highlights of all channels and a continuous MTV news ticker.

The news channel will feature updates four times a day along with in-depth stories regarding artists, music, movies and social issues. Exclusive live features and music programming blocks will highlight the music channel, while the television channel will give users a "behind the scenes" look at some of their favorite shows.

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Microsoft Tool Aids Xbox Development

At the Game Developers Conference in San Fransisco, Microsoft announced a new software package which it says will help speed the process of game development. Called XNA Studio, the product is based on collaboration tools already available in Microsoft's Visual Studio product.

XNA Studio will offer tools for asset management, defect tracking, project automation and work lists and will work seamlessly. The program will also allow for teams to work together even if they are in different places.

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Oracle Details PeopleSoft Merger Plans

Oracle today further revealed its plans for both PeopleSoft and its employees as the two companies continue to integrate. Over the next ten days, Oracle plans to slash as many as 5,000 jobs in an effort to bring the combined workforce down to 50,000.

The cuts will come in both companies, and in a bid to satisfy current PeopleSoft customers, the plan includes keeping more than 90 percent of the existing PeopleSoft development and support staff.

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Commentary: Bill, Your Windows is Leaking!

As Windows XP moves along its beta track it would be naive of anyone to believe that the operating system itself, as well as various other bits and pieces, were not being passed around on the net like mashed potatoes at a Thanksgiving dinner. BetaNews itself has seen many an e-mail come through directing us to different Web sites and persons playing host to this "Thanksgiving feast" of Microsoft software.

Just today, a Web site is offering Microsoft's Windows Media Player 8 Beta 2 for download. WMP8 was supposed to be confined to the Windows XP beta test and only ship with copies of the OS, a decision which has raised anti-trust concerns.

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McVeigh Death Broadcast Still Fighting

As many of you may know, just a short while ago Timothy McVeigh was found guilty for the destruction of the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. After waiving all appeals in the case his death sentence is quickly approaching, which was set for May 16th. Now an Internet firm is attempting to broadcast the execution over the Web at a cost of $1.95 per person, but is facing a heap of legal troubles to proceed.

Yesterday a judge denied the company's request, which it plans to appeal in coming weeks. Another net firm LiveontheWeb.com has stated it plans to attempt a broadcast of the execution should Entertainment Network be allowed to do so.

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Sega Announces Restructuring Plan

Sega, who last month ditched the once popular Dreamcast console, announced an aggressive restructuring plan today to get the company as a whole "back in black". Currently on a four-year profit skid, Sega announced earlier this year they would be leaving the console market in favor of game development. Associated Press reports that after cutting its staff nearly 30%, Sega plans to launch 11 titles for the X-Box console when it debuts later this year. It will also roll out titles for Nintendo's GameCube, as well as a new deal to develop games for mobil phones. Should Sega continue to post massive losses, it could spell the end for the once profitable company.

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