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TK's MORNING BUZZ: NARM Retailers Are Looking to Get in on 'the Next Big Thing'

By Thomas K. Arnold | Posted: March 12, 2001

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Doing a quick tour of the show floor and the hotel networking lobbies here at the annual National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) convention, it becomes apparent that music retailers are eagerly looking beyond their current product lines to get in on The Next Big Thing.

A tour bus parked in front of the host hotel, the Marriott Orlando World Center, hosts ongoing demonstrations of DVD-Audio -- in particular, the high-end DTS variation. One of the first in the doors was a gentleman from Wal-Mart, who asked for several demonstration discs "so we'll know what to tell our customers."

And at a show floor demonstration of DataPlay, a new digital media format, the gentleman who was asking the most questions was none other than Joe Pagano, the movies and music whiz at Best Buy who was instrumental in bringing DVDs to the mass market.

Pagano's enthusiasm for DataPlay is well-founded. Unlike such other "micro" devices as Sony's "stick," DataPlay's optical storage media -- about the size of a quarter -- can record and permanently store not just MP3 and CD music files, but also video, games, Internet images and electronic books. Users can record their favorite CD and then add their own video footage. The video quality is not yet at DVD levels -- currently, the best the little gadget can do is MPEG-4 -- but getting to MPEG-2 is high on DataPlay's "to do" list.

The DataPlay player comes as a stand-along unit -- smaller than a wallet -- and incorporated into various other hardware devices, from a Samsung mini-music system to digital cameras soon to be made available from Toshiba and other leading consumer electronics firms. DataPlay also promises that pre-recorded media -- books, music and games -- will be available to consumers beginning in the fourth quarter, "in music, book and video stores."

Note that video stores are included in DataPlay's plans. That, along with Pagano's keen interest, should be enough to send retailers to the DataPlay Web site for more information (www.dataplay.com).

And this is just one of various new technological marvels coming our way. Take a cue from Joe -- keep your ears and eyes open for anything new. Even if your primary business is still renting videocassettes, you owe it to yourself to at least explore everything that comes down the pike.

Humorous sidenote: From a press release announcing the termination of Blockbuster Inc.'s video-on-demand agreement with Enron, we find that Big Blue's stores are no longer considered video stores. According to John Antioco, Blockbuster is now a "consumer-branded entertainment-aggregator."

And with that, this Web-enabled business-to-business scribe bids you a good morning.

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