Or how multimedia and the world-wide web lost their pedigrees
Pure-breds, it is often said amongst animal breeders, are not
as sturdy as mixed parentage stock. Although prettier, they are
more prone to problems and they don't survive as long. Is the
world of digital media about to follow this traditional wisdom?
It seems so. Both CD-ROMs and the world-wide web have experienced
a boom in recent years. As heralds of the new computer breeds
multimedia and the internet, they have won prizes at all the best
shows. Yet their limitations are becoming apparent. Some clever
companies are starting to cross breed for a better features. These
mongrel media show interesting promise.
One of the problems of multimedia has been that many people have
not really understood what it is. A bit of sound here, a clip
of video there and the odd fancy graphic in between have often
been mistaken for the brave new world of future multimedia. In
fact these were just test runs. Just as with the invention of
the telephone Alexander Bell could not foresee fax back services
and mobile data transmission, so with the arrival of the Internet
and multimedia we cannot hope in 1997 to foresee the many uses
and adaptations these new concepts will bring us in the century
to come. What is clear, however, is that cross fertilisation of
ideas and uses will change both beyond all recognition. The fore-runners
are just coming onto the market.
These additions would be collected in a yearbook. It's data would
be accessible for the program just like the CD-ROM files of the
original disc but they would be stored on the user's hard disk.
Moreover Microsoft offered users the option to subscribe to further
yearbooks after 1996, effectively ensuring that their Encarta
encyclopaedia would never get out of date (or at least not until
Microsoft goes bankrupt, currently a somewhat unlikely scenario).
The essence of this innovation is clear. Microsoft is using one
medium to resolve the weakness of another medium. CD-ROMs are
impossible to update. Once pressed they are fixed forever. It
doesn't matter whether you use all 650 MB or just 6.5 MB. The
die is cast and the data is frozen. Nothing could be further from
the truth for the world wide web.
Flexibility by the second
If you want to track availability of a product, just link your
website to the warehouse's database. Automatically generated pages
can update stock information at whichever intervals you program.
Want to know where your UPS package is in their world-wide system?
No problem, with a package number the website will tell you of
the last known location within seconds. Computers tell computers
what is happening. Need to know share prices of your latest investments?
There's a range of services nowadays on the web that'll keep
you posted. No need to make horrendous losses anymore.
But suppose you need a video of an important event from last year?
Or a recording of some politician's major speech? Don't look
to the web. If you're lucky there might be a still photograph.
But the resolution will be poor. A sound bite will be the most
audio you can expect - and the quality even then might leave
something to be desired. A CD-ROM could deliver you better quality
and longer video. As a sound-and-vision medium CD-ROMs established
their pedigree long ago, and in their next incarnation as DVD,
these silver disks will have no shortage of disc space anymore.
But then, the rest of it might be out of date. What a trade-off!
The world-wide CD-ROM web
In Germany the Quelle group of mail-order companies found the
CD-ROM ideal as a modern way of distributing their catalogue,
not the least because it is cheaper than the printed version.
But like printed paper, it suffered from the same tendency to
get out of date on price and availability. The answer is innovative,
don't even include price information on the CD. Keep that on the
website. There you can change it any time, day or night. And
then let the Interactive Catalogue on the CD-ROM use internet
connections to get up-to-date information from the website.
The simplicity of the idea belies the complicated programming
behind it, but the utility of the concept is universal. Microsoft
made it possible by making their browser "Internet Explorer"
free of charge. Siemens in the Netherlands has adopted the concept
for their annual report. The interactive version on the CD-ROM
allows you to go direct to their website for the latest company
information. The merging of the CD-ROM and the world-wide web
View Toshiba interactively
If they are looking for new product details, the Product Gallery
upgrades will allow them to download the specifications, pictures
and options details of new notebooks as they appear during 1997.
If they are interested in how other customers exploit the advantages
of Toshiba mobile computing, they can take a look at the Case
Studies notice board. Additional information there can be added
to the case studies already on the CD-ROM, so expanding the range
of examples of mobile computing users can analyse.
Of course, these are not the only changes in Toshiba Views interactive
4.0. We've taken the opportunity to make it more interactive,
user friendlier and more informative. The complete interface of
the CD-ROM has been given a new modern image. The Technology Exhibition
has been updated to include the latest advances, and the Megatrends
presentation theatre has a complete new show to demonstrate the
benefits of mobile computing in today's modern society.
Mongrel media on exhibit
And if you have an internet connection, why not try out our new update service. We look forward to surprising you with interesting case studies and innovative products. Let us know your opinion via our website's e-mail function. For when creating a new breed, it is not always easy to get it right first time.