Strange New World: Tech Picks of the Week

The theme this week is all entertainment. As summer begins, people get lazy, the kids are home from school and things generally slow down. While we stay inside and soak up the air conditioning, we're going to need stuff to watch and listen to, because who wants to talk to family?

Here now are the picks of the week.

Sony Brings Live Events to Movie Theaters

In an effort to combat flat movie ticket sales, Sony has announced that it is starting a division to bring new digital content to traditional movie theaters. For the first time, the company will show screenings of live plays, sporting events and concerts in theaters around the country, starting in August with "Delirium," a music and dance program from Cirque de Soleil, and the closing night performance of the Broadway musical "Rent."

Box-office sales are down 12 percent from their peak in 2002, and there are a bunch of reasons for this decline, from home theater to video games. This could be a way to get a few more dollars out of the cinemas that would be empty anyway, and the new digital projection in many theaters is going to be better than any home entertainment center.

Time to Buy a Blu-Ray Player

Months ago, a new Blu-ray player might have cost you an arm and a leg or at least a grand. But now that Blu-ray has won the next-generation DVD format war, there are several units available for less than $500. It might be time to stop holding out and embrace the new format, especially if you have a 1080p TV.

The Sony BDP-S300 is not a top-of-the-line player, but it's a solid unit for $399.99. If you want to spend a bit more money you can pick up the Samsung BD-P1400 ($449.99), which has a bit better playback and more audio options. The Panasonic DMP-BD30 ($499.99) is a great player with pristine picture quality, and there is very little delay in the loading times with this player.

But the best deal out there if you're going to buy a Blu-ray player has to be the PlayStation 3 ($399.99). The Blu-ray player works well and, oh by the way, it's a great next-generation gaming console. If you have kids and are thinking about a Blu-ray player, this could make you father of the year.

Napster: Same as It Ever Was

There's news about one of the Web's old favorites: It looks like the new Napster is the same as the old Napster.

The music service announced it will start selling essentially the entire commercial music archive from the four major record labels -- 6 million songs -- DRM-free and for the reasonable price of 99 cents per track. Just the way young Shawn Fanning imagined it would be 10 years ago.

We've always been amazed that copyright holders cannot get out of their own way when it comes to finding their way in the digital age. But the mishandling of Napster as a brand needs to be covered as probably the single biggest business mistake of the last decade and maybe the last century.

Let us consider what the music industry has done. In Napster, the record labels were effectively handed a fully functioning online content destination of unparalleled popularity. They did not have to spend a penny developing this brand. Logo, marketing, sales -- everything was turnkey and ready to go.

Fanning, in his college dorm, did all the work for them. All the record industry needed to do was buy the service, co-opt the brand to start selling content commercially and sit back and become something that might have been bigger than Google and iTunes combined.

But it wasn't to be.

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