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Samsung will stop releasing Blu-ray players in the U.S.

samsung ultra hd blu-ray ces 2016
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Samsung will exit the U.S. Blu-ray player market — and has abandoned plans to introduce a new high-end 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray model that was originally meant for release later this year.

“Samsung will no longer introduce new Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray player models in the U.S. market,” a Samsung spokesperson confirmed to Digital Trends. The statement implies that the company might continue to offer the devices in overseas markets like Europe, or even in neighboring markets like Canada and Mexico.

The move to stop making 4K Blu-ray players was originally reported by Forbes, with Samsung later confirming it will stop releasing all new Blu-ray players stateside. This comes shortly after Chinese maker Oppo Digital decided to do the same thing last year. The news is a little worrying for what it might say about the state of the still-young 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc market.

Normally, seeing a major brand like Samsung abandon an entire market would be a sure sign that the category was in trouble. After all, if Samsung can’t make money in a consumer tech area like home theater — which it has been dominating along with LG for years — how healthy could that market be? Yet, while regular Blu-ray may be growing stale, stats for 4K Blu-ray tell the opposite story: Sales of Ultra HD Blu-ray discs are on the rise, and support for the format from major Hollywood studios hasn’t ebbed at all, even though not every new movie is released as an Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Sales of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs “soared 68 percent” in the third quarter of 2018, from the same quarter in 2017, according to a report by Variety, which cited these numbers from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. The report goes on to cite other positive-sounding stats, like this one: “4K UHD discs already account for almost one in 10 new release discs sold in the U.S,” according to Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, and: “[UHD] Product sales are up 87 percent in comparison to the first three quarters of last year,” said Bob Buchi, president, worldwide, Paramount Home Media Distribution.

So why would Oppo and Samsung see this as a market they can’t compete in? Perhaps the answer lies in the sales numbers for 4K UHD Blu-ray players. Despite being the first company to sell a player for the format, Samsung may have encountered an unexpected amount of competition from Sony, LG, and Panasonic. These companies top our list of recommended 4K UHD Blu-ray players.

It’s also possible that Microsoft’s Xbox One consoles have put more pressure on the dedicated player market than previously thought. DEG claims that 2.3 million Ultra HD Blu-ray playback devices were sold in the first nine months of 2018, but this number includes both dedicated players and game consoles. Given that NPD video game analyst Mat Piscatella claims that 2018 was phenomenal for the Xbox One X in particular, it could simply be that Samsung got squeezed out.

One can’t help but wonder what this may mean for the larger physical media space as a whole. Predictions of the death of physical media have been almost as common as predictions of the death of email, and so far both have proven wrong. Even the now-ancient DVD format continues to enjoy a large share of disc sales at nearly 58 percent.

That stat notwithstanding, it’s hard to ignore the growing amount of streaming media that is not only showing up in 4K, but also in HDR, which is fast becoming a bigger draw for people who have bought new TVs in the last three years. Sony has even claimed that the reason neither the PS4 or PS4 Pro can play 4K Ultra HD discs is that streaming media was seen as the preferred way of watching these kinds of movies. Needless to say, that hardly explains the company’s ongoing dedicated player production.

If physical 4K UHD Blu-ray discs did end up on the extinct list, it could be a dark time for A/V enthusiasts. Despite growing support for 4K, HDR, and even advanced surround formats like Dolby Atmos on streaming services, bandwidth will continue to remain an issue, which means both video and audio will remain compressed. Formats like Dolby TrueHD, with their lossless, 24-bit depth and up to 192kHz sample rates may take years to arrive — if they ever do.

Updated after confirmation from Samsung that it will no longer release new Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players in the U.S.

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Samsung will stop making 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players

samsung ultra hd blu-ray ces 2016
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Samsung has decided to exit the Ultra HD Blu-ray player market and has abandoned its plans to introduce a new high-end model that it was originally going to release later this year, Forbes reports. A Samsung spokesperson confirmed the news to Digital Trends, though with a bit of a caveat: “Samsung will no longer introduce new Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray player models in the US market.” The statement implies that the company might continue to offer the devices in overseas markets, like Europe, or even in neighboring markets like Canada and Mexico. The move comes shortly after Chinese maker Oppo Digital decided to do the same thing last year. The news is both curious and a little worrying for what it might say about the state of the still-young 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc market.

Normally, seeing a major brand like Samsung abandon an entire product category would be a sure sign that the category was in trouble. After all, if Samsung can’t make money in a consumer tech area like home theater — which it has been dominating along with LG for years — how healthy could that market be? And yet, many of the available stats tell the opposite story: Sales of Ultra HD Blu-ray discs are on the rise and support for the format from major Hollywood studios hasn’t ebbed at all, even though not every new movie is getting released as an Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Sales of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, “soared 68 percent” in the third quarter of 2018, from the same quarter in 2017, according to a report by Variety, which cited these numbers from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. The report goes on to cite other positive-sounding stats, like this one: “4K UHD discs already account for almost one in 10 new release discs sold in the U.S,” according to Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, and: “[UHD] Product sales are up 87 percent in comparison to the first three quarters of last year,” said Bob Buchi, president, worldwide, Paramount Home Media Distribution.

So why would Oppo and Samsung see this as a market they can’t compete in? Perhaps the answer lies in the sales numbers for 4K UHD Blu-ray players. Despite being the first company to sell a player for the format, Samsung may have encountered an unexpected amount of competition from Sony, LG, and Panasonic. These companies top our list of recommended 4K UHD Blu-ray players. It’s also possible that Microsoft’s Xbox One consoles have put more pressure on the dedicated player market than previously thought. DEG claims that 2.3 million Ultra HD Blu-ray playback devices were sold in the first nine months of 2018, but this number includes both dedicated players and game consoles. Given that NPD video game analyst Mat Piscatella claims that 2018 was phenomenal for the Xbox One X in particular, it could simply be that Samsung got squeezed out.

One can’t help but wonder what this may mean for the larger physical media space as a whole. Predictions of the death of physical media have been almost as common as predictions of the death of email, and so far both have proven wrong. Even the now-ancient DVD format continues to enjoy a large share of disc sales at nearly 58 percent — who says Netflix has killed the DVD?

That stat notwithstanding, it’s hard to ignore the growing amount of streaming media that is not only showing up in 4K, but also in HDR, which we’d argue is fast becoming a bigger draw for people who have bought new TVs in the last three years. Sony has even claimed (perhaps disingenuously) that the reason neither the PS4 or PS4 Pro can play 4K Ultra HD discs, is that streaming media was seen as the preferred way of watching these kinds of movies. Needless to say, that hardly explains the company’s ongoing dedicated player production.

If physical 4K UHD Blu-ray discs did end up on the extinct list, it could be a dark time for A/V enthusiasts. Despite growing support for 4K, HDR, and even advanced surround formats like Dolby Atmos on streaming services, bandwidth will continue to remain an issue, which means both video and audio will remain compressed. Formats like Dolby TrueHD, with their lossless, 24-bit depth and up to 192 KHz sample rates may take years to arrive — if they ever do.

Editors’ Recommendations

Samsung will reportedly no longer make 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players

samsung ultra hd blu-ray ces 2016
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Samsung has decided to exit the Ultra HD Blu-ray player market and has abandoned its plans to introduce a new high-end model that it was originally going to release later this year, Forbes reports. While we haven’t been able to verify the news at this time, if true, the move comes shortly after Chinese maker Oppo Digital decided to do the same thing last year. The news is both curious and a little worrying for what it might say about the state of the still-young 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc market.

Normally, seeing a major brand like Samsung abandon an entire product category would be a sure sign that the category was in trouble. After all, if Samsung can’t make money in a consumer tech area like home theater — which it has been dominating along with LG for years — how healthy could that market be? And yet, many of the available stats tell the opposite story: Sales of Ultra HD Blu-ray discs are on the rise and support for the format from major Hollywood studios hasn’t ebbed at all, even though not every new movie is getting released as an Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Sales of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, “soared 68 percent” in the third quarter of 2018, from the same quarter in 2017, according to a report by Variety, which cited these numbers from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. The report goes on to cite other positive-sounding stats, like this one: “4K UHD discs already account for almost one in 10 new release discs sold in the U.S,” according to Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, and: “[UHD] Product sales are up 87 percent in comparison to the first three quarters of last year,” said Bob Buchi, president, worldwide, Paramount Home Media Distribution.

So why would Oppo and Samsung see this as a market they can’t compete in? Perhaps the answer lies in the sales numbers for 4K UHD Blu-ray players. Despite being the first company to sell a player for the format, Samsung may have encountered an unexpected amount of competition from Sony, LG, and Panasonic. These companies top our list of recommended 4K UHD Blu-ray players. It’s also possible that Microsoft’s Xbox One consoles have put more pressure on the dedicated player market than previously thought. DEG claims that 2.3 million Ultra HD Blu-ray playback devices were sold in the first nine months of 2018, but this number includes both dedicated players and game consoles. Given that NPD video game analyst Mat Piscatella claims that 2018 was phenomenal for the Xbox One X in particular, it could simply be that Samsung got squeezed out.

One can’t help but wonder what this may mean for the larger physical media space as a whole. Predictions of the death of physical media have been almost as common as predictions of the death of email, and so far both have proven wrong. Even the now-ancient DVD format continues to enjoy a large share of disc sales at nearly 58 percent — who says Netflix has killed the DVD?

That stat notwithstanding, it’s hard to ignore the growing amount of streaming media that is not only showing up in 4K, but also in HDR, which we’d argue is fast becoming a bigger draw for people who have bought new TVs in the last three years. Sony has even claimed (perhaps disingenuously) that the reason neither the PS4 or PS4 Pro can play 4K Ultra HD discs, is that streaming media was seen as the preferred way of watching these kinds of movies. Needless to say, that hardly explains the company’s ongoing dedicated player production.

If physical 4K UHD Blu-ray discs did end up on the extinct list, it could be a dark time for A/V enthusiasts. Despite growing support for 4K, HDR, and even advanced surround formats like Dolby Atmos on streaming services, bandwidth will continue to remain an issue, which means both video and audio will remain compressed. Formats like Dolby TrueHD, with their lossless, 24-bit depth and up to 192 KHz sample rates may take years to arrive — if they ever do.

JPMorgan Chase Rolls Out Digital Token

JPMorgan Chase on Thursday announced that it has created and successfully tested a digital coin. Each JPM Coin represents US$1 in funds held in designated accounts at JPMorgan Chase N.A.

The token was created using Quorum, a variant of Ethereum developed by JPMorgan Chase, to enable instantaneous payment transfers between its clients’ institutional accounts.

The JPM Coin and its underlying technology capabilities are currency-agnostic. Over time, the token will be extended to other major currencies and to other platforms. JPMorgan Chase says it will operate on all standard blockchain networks.

JPM Coin is currently a prototype, and JPMorgan Chase has not yet sought support from any regulators. It will do so as it moves toward production.

“The fact that JPMorgan Chase is issuing a token is overall very positive for development of corporate currencies and security tokens,” PCG Advisory Group CEO Jeff Ramson told the E-Commerce Times, “mainly because of the validation of the space that JPM brings.”

Not a Cryptocurrency or Stablecoin

JPM Coin differs from cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum in that the latter are not collateralized, and their value is intrinsic to the currency.

Although JPMorgan Chase has said that its token also differs from fiat-backed Stablecoins, some observers consider it to be one, based on matching characteristics.

“The advantage here is the JPMorgan Chase backing, rather than a theoretical value,” said Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research at Nucleus Research.

Although JPMorgan Chase will use the blockchain to settle transactions, that has no bearing on its acceptance of cryptocurrencies, PCG’s Ramson said. “Blockchain is a very important development, while cryptocurrencies — with no asset backing them — will diminish in significance.”

How JPM Coins Work

JPM Coins are transferred between parties in a transaction and instantaneously redeemed for the equivalent amount in U.S. dollars, reducing settlement times. JPMorgan Chase believes JPM Coin can reduce clients’ counterparts and settlement risk, decreasing capital requirements.

“The ability to accelerate settlements is important, given the volume of transactions and currency value fluctuations,” Wettemann told the E-Commerce Times.

JPMorgan Chase has concluded successful tests of the process between a client account and a J.P. Morgan account.

Pros and Cons of the JPM Coin Approach

“For certain types of interbank settlement, distributed (or synchronous) ledger technology (DLT/SLT) can create great efficiencies,” noted Steve Wilson, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“When trading parties are at arm’s length, you normally need brokers and expensive reconciliation layers,” he told the E-Commerce Times. Using SLT lets certain types of multilateral settlements be agreed to in real time. “Everyone knows that everyone sees the same data, without any reconciliation.”

However, SLT “can be exorbitantly expensive and slow in transactions where there are natural intermediaries,” Wilson pointed out.

The JPM Coin might “add great respectability” to the acceptance of blockchain technology for mainstream use, he said.

Still, arm’s length interbank settlement “is a special case — certainly important, but not universally applicable,” Wilson said, “so let’s not get carried away. Blockchain is not the next Internet. Nor is it generally any sort of network of value transfer.”

Blockchain has been touted as the answer to the difficulties that arise when financial institutions work with SWIFT, the global network that lets them send and receive financial transactions information.

All About the Money

SWIFT faces competition from the Interbank Information Network, which JPMorgan Chase launched in October 2017. By the end of the year, more than 100 banks had signed up. They will be the first users of JPM Coin.

Another competitor is Ripple, an enterprise blockchain solution for global payments, which has signed up more than 100 banks worldwide.

SWIFT has been taking on the competition:

  • In March it completed a DLT proof-of-concept for Nostro reconciliation with 34 participating banks;
  • In November, SWIFT India launched a blockchain banking pilot with Monetago; and
  • In December, SWIFT launched a pilot pre-validation system that uses an API to check data from other banks, in an effort to compete with fintech companies and blockchain startups.

However, “SWIFT is going to have to be very careful about its value proposition and its place in these new disintermediated settlement systems,” Constellation’s Wilson warned.

“The new ledgers need to not overreach,” he cautioned. “Even the best blockchain applications tend to overlook that tokenization is a form of admin, which the blockchain initially was dedicated to getting rid of.”

The Government Gets Involved

The United States government’s General Services Administration (GSA) has launched the U.S. Federal blockchain program.

In July 2017 it hosted a blockchain forum attended by multiple federal agencies, where advances in blockchain technology and use cases were discussed, and an agenda was set for working together to evaluate and implement blockchain in fulfilling the agencies’ diverse missions.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began offering grants of up to $800K to fund anticounterfeiting solutions from blockchain startups.

It’s not clear how well blockchain will work in government.

“Because of the reality of public admin,” Constellation’s Wilson pointed out, “blockchain is much harder to generalize into governments.”


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

Cruise like Mick Jagger: Virgin Voyage’s new ship boasts RockStar Suites

Sir Richard Branson’s new cruise line is prepping for a 2020 virgin voyage by unveiling the ship’s suites for the first time. On Thursday, February 14, Virgin Voyages, part of the Virgin Group, shared the details of the ship’s RockStar Suites. The cruise is designed to allow travelers to vacation like a rock star, the company says, from tables that actually encourage dancing on tabletops, to concierge services willing to fetch such oddities as only red gummy bears. Ticket sales also opened today.

The ship Scarlet Lady includes 78 RockStar Suites, all arranged to have a view of the ocean. The suites, according to the company, were inspired by yachts from rock and roll icons such as Grace Jones with a “retro-futurism” look. Designed by Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio, the space ditches traditional cruise ship luxury for vinyl turntables, showers with an ocean view, and a sea terrace.

“Virgin has always avoided stuffy formalities and brought a lot of excitement and a bit of rebelliousness to our customer experiences,” Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group, said in a press release. “With these glamorous suites, Virgin Voyages is bringing rock and roll to the high seas and spoiling our sailors like the rockstars they are.”

The RockStar Services Crew arranges special access including backstage entertainment access and private transfers to and from the ship. Travelers in the RockStar Suites will also have assistance unpacking and even a drying service for swimsuits. The suites have a full cocktail bar as well as access to a private club called Richard’s Rooftop.

The ship also includes two Massive Suites — suites that are over 2,000 square feet with extras like a music room and dressing room. The suites have a large terrace with a runway dining table, featuring stairs leading up to the top of the table for dancing. The ship is also home to Fab Suites, Posh Suites, and Gorgeous Suites.

Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady won’t depart until the 2020 inaugural season, which is booking now online. The ship, which only accommodates adults 18 and older, also offers entertainment and more than 20 different eateries. The trips depart from Miami into various Caribbean locations.

Virgin Group owns more than 60 different businesses, including travel, telecommunications, music, financial services, and healthcare.

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