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In June, Divx was launched Time Warner and others had already rolled out new rental programs in anticipation Sears announced that it was canceling plans to carry Divx players, apparently because of negative publicity Thomson (maker of RCA and ProScan brands) joined the Divx program, helping dilute image problems caused by Zenith s 11 bankruptcy At the July Video Software Dealers Association conference, retailers were down on Divx but were moving quickly to build up DVD sales and rental programs based on reports of record player sales At the show, Warner Home Video, DVD s biggest supporter, announced that it had generated over $110 million in revenue from DVD sales in the first 6 months of 1998 NetFlix, the first Internet-based DVD rental store, had rented over 20,000 copies since opening its e-doors in April JVC s announcement of its D-VHS digital videotape system, a potential competitor to DVD, did little to dampen DVD enthusiasm, especially since D-VHS did not include any provision for prerecorded tapes In August, Fox announced it would produce open DVDs along with Divx versions This left DreamWorks SKG as the only major studio not committed to open DVD A month later DreamWorks bowed to the inevitable and announced non-Divx titles Still, blockbuster movies from Steven Spielberg (the S in SKG) were nowhere to be seen A DVD release of Back to the Future was announced, only to be withdrawn a week later, not to reappear for over two years Digital Theater Systems (DTS) announced that titles supporting the optional DTS audio format would finally appear by year s end As it turned out, the direct-to-video Mulan disc was the only one to appear on schedule At the September 1998 DVD Forum conference in San Francisco, Warren Lieberfarb, defender of the DVD faith, predicted that DVD would be one of the hottest consumer electronics products to be launched in the last few decades Dan Russel of Intel predicted that more than 40 million DVDROM drives would be available by the end of 1999 Warren s crystal ball was crystal clear, if not quite optimistic enough, while Dan s crystal ball turned out to be running a bit fast The new Toshiba SD-7108 progressive-scan DVD players, able to display almost twice the resolution as standard players from the same DVD, didn t make it out of the warehouse Concerns about lack of copy protection on progressive-scan output kept them there for another year A few weeks later, Genesis Microchips announced a new de-interlacing chip that would
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eventually find its way into most of the progressive-scan DVD players released in 1999 and 2000 In September, the Chinese government announced the new Super Video CD (SVCD) format, similar to DVD with MPEG-2 video, onscreen menus, and multilanguage subtitles, but using standard CDs, partly to avoid the high royalties demanded by DVD patent holders Hitachi announced that its DVD-RAM camcorder would be out by the end of 1999 The reality distortion field of this announcement was set to about 12 years As a publicity stunt, NetFlix made DVDs of Clinton s grand jury testimony in the Monica Lewinsky case available for 2 cents within a week of the broadcast NetFlix received unexpected extra publicity when some customers were surprised to discover an X-rated movie in the package In an unrelated story, Project X, the rumored game cum DVD player, was given the official moniker of Nuon The company had wisely recognized that it would do much better by positioning its technology as an enhanced DVD player rather than yet another game console Nuon-based players were promised for 1999 Blockbuster, well-known for its refusal to rent any movie with a rating above R, began DVD rentals in 500 stores in September Philips and Blockbuster partnered on a rental promotion program, as did Sony with NetFlix, and Warner Bros and Columbia TriStar with West Coast Video and Hollywood Entertainment The flurry of rental programs just happened to coincide with the nationwide expansion of Divx By this time NetFlix, the online rental service, had become the largest DVD rental store with over 2,000 titles Online sales of DVDs by companies such as DVDExpress, Reelcom, Buycom, and Amazoncom had become fiercely competitive, with many titles being sold at a 50-percent discount The UK s FACT made headlines again with a raid on Laser Enterprises in Essex, England to seize imported US DVDs A month later, in October, the official launch of DVD in Western Europe occurred; sort of At least there were more players and more discs This was followed by another lessthan-spectacular official launch, that of HDTV in the US on November 1, 1998 Approximately 40 TV stations began broadcasting bits and pieces of HDTV programming to a few thousand HDTV sets around the country The next non-event was the release of the DVD-Audio spec, with promises of players in 1999 once the copy protection issues were resolved As the format that cried wolf, DVD-Audio was losing credibility among DVD technology watchers The release date of new 47G DVD-R drives was bumped to the second quarter of 1999, to the dismay of developers desperate to use the larger-capacity format for testing works in progress In November, as Comdex rolled around, DVD-ROM drive speeds were notched up to 6X Various combinations of player features and drive
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