Thursday, July 26, 2007

My museum of content related artefacts (12)

1992: CD-i

Yes I have still a CD-i player and it still works. In fact I have again two players since last year, but the eldest one (the CD-i 450) is no part of the collection any longer as it was stolen in 1999 and probably sold as a game computer. With the two working players, I still have some 85 CD-i discs of all kinds, from the singer Pavarotti to Jazz, from games to soft porn and from movies to documentaries. I have also a digital collection of the 85 covers of the CD-i discs.

CD-i has been a marketing anomaly, which eventually led to the DVD. I heard about CD-i in 1986. The term was not there yet, but engineers of Philips explaining CD-ROM indicated that they were going to develop another format for television entertainment. In the meantime CD-ROM grew especially as mega book and database carrier, not yet as multimedia carrier. But the rumblings about a multimedia TV entertainment format became stronger by the end of the eighties. By 1988 Philips boss Jan Timmer had enough of the technical dabbling of his Philips engineers and put an old trustee in charge, Mr Gaston Bastiaens to speed up the process. And it worked. By October 1991 Mr Timmer was dancing in a New York discotheque to celebrate the introduction of the CD-i, one year later to be followed by the introduction in Europe (CD-i was a cultural product, so it needs a special handling region wise).

CD-i had problems from the beginning. The format was not the only format competing for market dominance. Microsoft saw the CD-ROM as multimedia carrier, but another standard, 3DO was promoted by amongst others the game developer and distributor Electronic Arts. Not a real threat was the multimedia mini-disc, Electronic Book of Sony. CD-i remained an industrial standard, only supported by Philips and Sony. But this market situation caused a problem for CD-i from the beginning: which were the strong points of its competitors and what market segments should CD-i be in. Philips started its own publishing company and simulated multimedia developers and they developed everything. Once the video module for the player was ready the assortment ranged from the singer Pavarotti to Jazz, from games to soft porn and from movies to documentaries and scientific productions. But the CD-i was no gaming machine; for that it was too slow. It was no a machine for interactive documentaries as its authoring system (Taiga) was too expensive. But as a movie machine it was a start; but Hollywood was not prepared yet.

Besides format problems there were more problems in the technology development worldwide. Internet came up as a multimedia technology for consumers. And consumers were more interested in internet than in a technology which had not yet matured. But the electronic publishers of the Philips Interactive Publishing Company did not find this a problem; with some extra technical gear they thought up CD-i Online, the CD-i holding the static information and internet presenting the timely information through a slow dial-up connection.
But this turned out to be the last efforts of CD-i market efforts.

By September 1996 Mr Boonstra, the successor to Mr Timmer, made a clear decision. Philips was in manufacturing consumer electronics and not in publishing. He abandoned CD-i, sold the spoils of the publishing company to Infogrames and moved on with developing DVD.

Tomorrow I will publish a series of CD-i covers from my collection.

Blog Posting Number: 824


No comments: