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Tower Records Expands Retail with Digital Downloading
June 28, 2006

Tower Records continues to bring music to everyone’s ears with its new retail plan of digital downloading. Tower will allow customers to purchase tracks for 99 cents each or $9.99 for an entire album online at With Puretracks, who is powering the service, music is encoded at a higher bit rate than most online downloads. Tracks are also available in Microsoft’s Windows Media Audio format, a feature which increases tracks’ compatibility and enables purchasers to burn them, play them in most CD players as well as transfer them to digital music players. The tracks are not transferable to Apple’s iPod, however.

Pioneer’s Future U.S. Store Will Serve as Testing Ground
June 28, 2006

Apple and Sony have successfully done it, now Pioneer plans to open a retail store in Costa Mesa, Calif. this August. The store will offer Pioneer and Pioneer Elite products while also serving as a strategy to improve products based on consumer feedback. The store, a testing-ground, will feature new products currently only available in Japan. “Product technology is evolving so quickly and commoditization of product happens faster than ever,” said Craig McManis, vice president, Pioneer Stores (USA) Inc. “A company store allows us greater access to consumers for product testing and planning.” That company claims that other retailers will benefit from these test-opportunities helping

Panasonic Takes System Tack for Blu-ray Bow; Adds Concierge Plasma-buyer Customer-care Program
June 26, 2006

Taking what it characterized as the next step in its transition from standalone product marketing to offering complete digital home entertainment solutions, Panasonic unveiled its first Blu-ray Disc player -- DMP-BD10 ($1,299.95; September delivery), earmarking it as the core product in a high-definition home theater consisting of a matching receiver (SA-XR700; $999.95; Sept.), and speaker system (SB-TP1000; $2,999.95; Sept.). The 65-inch 1080p-capable plasma TV model TH-65PX600 ($10,000; Sept.), is being introduced at the same time, as a complement to the system. Reid Sullivan, vice president of Panasonic Consumer Electronics Co.’s Entertainment Group, says that while all elements are being sold separately, dealers

MPAA, CEA Clash over Analog Hole Legislation
June 22, 2006

MPAA Chairman and CEO Dan Glickman and CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro both testified before Congress this week on opposite sides of the analog hole debate. The analog hole refers to the ability for analog devices to strip digital content of its digital rights management (DRM) content during the digital-to-analog conversion process. The MPAA fears that this can lead to piracy, which it claims cost the film industry $6.1 billion in 2005. Glickman voiced his support for anti-piracy legislation introduced recently in the House that would seek to close this hole in DRM enforcement. Shapiro, on the other hand,

RadioShack Expands A/V Offering by Adding LG, Panasonic, TiVo and More
June 22, 2006

Several years ago, RadioShack attempted to gain a solid footing in selling television and home entertainment A/V products through an exclusive relationship with Thomson and the RCA brand, but it was met with little success and lead to a termination of the contract. Even so, RadioShack hasn’t given up hope. Now the company is placing its bets on LCD TVs from multiple vendors. It has been selling models from the AKAI brand and coming in July will expand the stores offering with LCD TV models from LG and Panasonic, ranging in sizes between 20 and 42 inches; all of them will have built-in HDMI connections

Tivoli Releases New Products and Treads the Waters of HD Radio
June 22, 2006

The audience of press and analysts laughed when Tom DeVesto, Chairman and CEO of Tivoli Audio, joked that the company had been introducing its all-in-one CD/AM/FM music system for two years now. It’s true. The product was first announced at the company’s annual luncheon and line show in 2004. But DeVesto says his company is now ready to ship the unit in the Fall for a price of $599.99. But another product may take its place in the “coming soon” category—an HD radio. It seems a natural progression. Tivoli, a radio company made good by its first product, the Henry Kloss-designed Model One table top

Apple Audits Chinese iPod Factory
June 22, 2006

Apple issued details recently of an internal investigation into claims made June 11th by British newspaper The Mail on Sunday that they were using sweatshop labor in China to produce iPods. The manufacturing plants in question are run by a company called Foxconn, the trade name for Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd., which manufactures products for companies like Dell, HP and Apple, among others. Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said, “Apple has begun a thorough audit of the manufacturing plant operated by Foxconn in Longhua, China.” The article claimed that workers in the Longhua factory toil through 15-hour days for only $50 a

PRO Group to Sell Power Condioners from Furman and Panamax
June 21, 2006

The Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO) Group has struck a deal with Furman Sound and Panamax to supply their power conditioning products to member companies. John Maloney, vice president of sales for Panamax says, “Our combined product lines and technologies allow the member companies of the PRO Group to offer their customers the broadest range and highest quality power conditioning and surge protection available.” Furman Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Dave Keller adds, “ creating one financial program for the two brands, we’re making it easy for PRO Group members to be able to offer their customers these two leading options

Rivet Dives into Wal-Mart TechTank
June 21, 2006

Rivet International has joined the list of companies participating in Wal-Mart’s educational TechTank tours. The tours will educate customers on how to use the products housed in a big rig that’s been turned into a traveling showroom. The Rivet portable music player carrying accessories on display will include the RHYTHM GRAB for iPod nano, RHYTHM Earphone Lanyard for any music player, GRAB for iPod Video 30 / 60GB and GRAB for Creative Zen Micro / MicroPhoto. The Wal-Mart TechTank Intel Summer Nights Tour, visiting 70 locations in 12 states over 12 weeks, will show product by day and entertain by night

HD DVD-R Coming from Advanced Media in July
June 20, 2006

If all goes according to plan, Advanced Media will be among the first to offer the recordable counterpart to the new HD DVD format at the end of July. The 15GB single layer RIDATA HD DVD-R discs will allow consumers to record high-definition programming or store massive amounts of other data. Both organic and inorganic dye HD DVD-R’s will be offered, and each type will support Advanced Access Content System (AACS), next generation encryption for HD DVD’s. In addition, the discs will handle up to 7.1 channel surround sound. By fourth quarter, Advanced plans to release a 30GB dual-layer disc

New Jeep Doubles as Giant Phone Receiver
June 19, 2006

The 2007 Jeep Compass, coming out this summer, has been tricked out with virtually every conceivable digital amenity, going so far as to take hands-free phone use to the next level. Although the nine-speaker Boston Acoustics Sound Group with eight-channel amplifier and articulating liftgate speakers seems best-suited for listening to the output from the AM/FM stereo, six-disc CD player, built-in SIRIUS satellite radio or auxiliary input jack for an MP3 player (which can be powered from the 115-volt outlet in the center console – also good for cell phones, laptops, etc.), customers can also use it to listen to phonecalls. The Uconnect

Audiovox, Audio Research, Jensen, Code Alarm Line Show
June 16, 2006

At the West Side of Manhattan in an indoor loft Audiovox took some time to show off its latest and greatest products. Furnished like a living room for a statesman, the loft was the perfect vehicle to promote a new high-end 50” Plasma Television. The Audiovox 50-inch Plasma model FPE5016P features 16:9 aspect ratio coupled with a high resolution HDTV display, 3.2 and 2.2 pull-down with motion compensation, parental control with V-chip, SRS surround sound, a super-wide viewing angle, and a unique tilt-and-swivel stand and remote control with a MSRP of $3,650. Surrounding the television were elegant home furnishings that are

Interview with Stewart Muller
June 16, 2006

Dealerscope Senior Editor Audrey Gray sat down with the new president of Philips Consumer Electronics North America, Stewart Muller, at the Philips “Holidays in June” line show. It was Muller’s second day on the job, but he already had plenty to say about his vision for the company’s relationship with retailers. Q: You’ve called yourself an an audio-video enthusiast. What are you into? I have twelve TV’s at home! Six of those are high definition. I even have one in the bathroom. Q: And what led to this proliferation? I’m a huge sports fan. I remember the very first time I

Contacts: Retailers Selling CE with a Twist of Innovation
June 15, 2006

RON ADAMS (Fort Lauderdale, FL) Like many small AV retailers, Ron Adams saw his foot traffic diminish down to trickle levels during the 1990’s when the big boxes proliferated in Florida. Things got so bad, he actually closed down his storefront and moved his business, SoundVision Systems, to his warehouse. But in an industry where seeing is believing, Adams felt he needed a way to show customers the glitz of a well-designed home theatre system. Inspired by the tricked-out trailers he saw at powerboat races on the coast, Adams decided to build what he calls a “mobile technology showroom.” It took him years

Passwords: Frank Talk from the Front lines of CE Retail
June 14, 2006

“We’re not trying to move boxes, we’re trying to sell service. That works for us out here. If we can actually get a customer through the door, our closure rate is high. The hard part is getting them in, getting them to talk to us. All the information on the internet, everything they’ve seen at box stores, all the acronyms, it puts people on the defensive. By the time customers walk in our doors, they’re so damn confused by all the product info out there, we can guide them in the right direction. People are starting to understand you get what you pay for.”

White Paper: DRM/CA Conflicts Could Burn Digital Entertainment Industry
June 14, 2006

iSuppli Vice President of Multimedia Content and Services Mark Kirstein recently released a white paper entitled, “Digital Rights Management and Conditional Access: Keys to the Digital Content Kingdom.” In it, he explains how conflict over Digital Rights Management (DRM) and Conditional Access (CA) could cripple the progress of the digital entertainment industry, with hundreds of billions of dollars at stake. According to the paper, the future of broadband video, digital music, next-generation DVD, home networking, mobile TV and IPTV all hinge on the decisions made now about CA and DRM, which concern access to the content involved (CA) and what the

Sony Launches Vending Machine Initiative
June 13, 2006

Starting this week, malls in Atlanta; Boulder, CO; and Santa Rosa, CA will be the first three to house new automated retail kiosks for Sony products. The machines will house CE wares such as batteries, MP3 players and digital cameras, as well as Sony DVD and CD titles, all available to consumers at the swipe of a credit or debit card. The experiment comes via Sony’s partnership with Zoom Systems, who recently distributed iPod vending machines to hotels and airports (and soon 180 Macy’s stores). The four-to-eight foot wide machines boast touch screen displays that show trailers, music videos or product information

Tripp Lite Ready to Partner with A/V Professionals
June 12, 2006

Professional audio/video installers/integrators can now hook up with Tripp Lite to provide power protection for their projects. The Tripp Lite Power Partner Program equips members with sales and marketing materials, training and other exclusive perks. The program launch coincides with the recent introduction of a new line of Tripp Lite limited-distribution power protection products. Says Tripp Lite Executive Vice President Jim Folk, “The Power Partner Program gives A/V professionals the training and support they need to sell and install Tripp Lite power protection effectively.”

The Hottest Accessories Do Double Duty
June 9, 2006

Customers shopping for “skin” for their new 60G iPods are likely to start wanting cases that do much more than protect their players from scratches. A company called Mophie has introduced a line of iPod holders (called “sleds”) that operate as headphone splitters, belt clips, and audio connectors. The most popular headphones offer noise cancellation and bluetooth capabilities. The more versatility the better, say the over 30 manufacturers demonstrating their latest accessories offerings at a Digital Life event at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan this week. (For much more on the latest in multi-functional accessories, watch for the July/August edition of E-GEAR magazine.)