Sony Announces a Blu CD – Sony has developed a so-called “new” CD format they have dubbed Blu-Spec CD. It uses the same special polycarbonate material and ultra-precision blue laser diode cutting process involved in manufacturing Blu-ray video discs – hence the name Blu-Spec. But, like First Impression Music’s advanced K2 HD discs, the discs are standard 44.1K/16-bit and play on a standard CD player. Sony claims the new spec reduces jitter and increases the fidelity of music reproduction, creating an audio quality similar to the master. The new discs are about 40% more expensive than normal CDs and so far will be available only in Japan, with a launch date of December 24. 60 titles of classical, jazz and other genres will be available at launch, and Sony will push other labels to adopt the format for some of their CD releases. What makes this new development unusual is that Sony usually has introduced proprietary formats which require a decoder or special player – such as SACD – but this time the new format integrates with existing CD players (although it is of course only two channel).
Panasonic Buys Sanyo – The world’s No. 1 plasma TV maker will acquire its smaller rival Sanyo Electric for about $8.8 billion. The move will make Panasonic Japan’s top electronics manufacturer, surpassing Hitachi, and will strengthen their edge in solar power gear and in rechargeable batteries for cell phones, PCs and autos. Sanyo is the seventh-largest solar cell manufacturer in the world, so they could assist Panasonic in getting a foothold in expanding solar market. Panasonic already works with Toyota Motor but Sanyo provides nickel metal hydride batters to Honda Motor and For Motor, and lithium ion batteries to Volkswagen. Experts predict a major breakthru in battery design soon, upgrading the small size and long life of camera, phone and computer batteries to automobiles.
Circuit City Bankruptcy – The chain of stores selling TVs and computers had filed for bankruptcy protection, becoming the biggest retail casualty so far in the slowing U.S. economy. Sales have declined at almost 1500 U.S. and Canadian stores. Circuit City owes $119 million to Hewlett-Packard and $116 million to Samsung. The chain is losing market share to Best Buy and Wal-Mart while Amazon.com and other online retailers undercut it with lower prices. Although it is considered incongruent to file for bankruptcy before Christmas, Circuit City was simply unable to pay its bills. The retailer said it would close a fifth of its U.S. stores, leaving about 566, and would also trim 20% of its 43,000 work force. On Sept. 29, Circuit City reported a loss of $239.2 million – more than triple from a year earlier. Circuit City’s rivals gained market share thru offering Apple and Dell computers. Best Buy and Wal-Mart lowered prices on flat panel TVs to lure customers, who are limiting their spending due to higher food costs, job losses and declining home values. The global financial crisis is making it difficult for chains to stock their shelves and for consumers to finance their purchases.