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Hewlett-Packard

Hewlett-Packard (HP) said it will support Toshiba’s HD-DVD format for digital video discs to stay neutral in a battle over technology standards.

The company also will continue to support the Blu-Ray high-definition DVD standard led by Sony. HP had previously supported the Blu-Ray disc format exclusively.

The move to support HD-DVD and Blu-Ray will help HP better assess development costs and provide a more affordable product to consumers, the company said. Both formats promise high-definition pictures, better sound quality, more capacity and improved copyright protection than standard DVDs.

Harvard University

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Word-of-mouth powerful, study says

Word-of-mouth has always been a powerful promotional vehicle, and a Harvard University study says it can be a fuse for an explosive online music business.

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School said the key is online playlists and allowing podcasters or bloggers to include music in their efforts. “Sharing isn’t equivalent to stealing,” said Michael McGuire, research director at Gartner, and a co-author of the report.

The study concluded that within five years, 25 percent of online music-store transactions will be driven by “consumer-to-consumer taste-sharing applications, such as playlist publishing and ranking tools built into online music stores and external sites with links to stores.”

British firm to buy comparison service

A division of a British retail and financial services company has agreed to buy a California-based Internet comparison-shopping service for $485 million.

GUS is buying PriceGrabber.com, a six-year-old shopping service that forecast sales of $60 million next year. “As a trusted and preferred comparison shopping destination, PriceGrabber.com has a leading position in a fast-growing market,” said Don Robert, chief executive of Experian, the GUS unit making the acquisition.

PriceGrabber.com connects online shoppers to more than 9,000 merchants ranging from large traditional merchants to smaller local sellers. The company also provides comparison shopping on more than 300 Web sites, including Ask Jeeves, MSN, Comcast, Bell South and About.com.

Google

Search engine puts musicians in the mix

Online search-engine leader Google will begin giving some musical artists the star treatment by spotlighting links to their songs, lyrics and other related material at the top of the results page.

Among other things, Google’s music section will provide lists of all the songs recorded on a specific album and also will point to places where the music can be legally downloaded.

Google is working with several online libraries to make sure its song list remains up to date.

ComScore Networks

More consumers do research online

More than 6.6 million iPod-related searches were conducted on the Internet last month, according to ComScore Networks. Searches for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 totaled 5 million, the research firm said, while Harry Potter items were sought 4.8 million times, and “Star Wars,” 2.5 million.

“It is clear that search has become a mainstream way for consumers to research products, irrespective of whether their ultimate purchase will occur online or at a retail store,” said Gian Fulgoni, ComScore’s chairman.

Compiled from Bloomberg News, MarketWatch and The Associated Press