Philips last week gave a first public showing of a videotape of images generated by prototype hardware to the CD-I Compact Disk-Interactive format for combining data, video and audio on a single optical Compact Disk – and Apple Computer immediately declared that it was withholding support for the proposed standard. The demonstration was made at a conference organised in Clearwater, Florida by the Boston Institute for Graphic Communication. The Philips tape demonstrated the technology’s ability to handle several different types of video, including animation and limited motion, and three levels of audio quality, and the demonstration was made in the hope of inspiring software developers to create application products for the new format. CD-I extends the technology of the existing compact audio disc and CD-ROM – Compact Disk-Read-Only Memory – products, and is intended as an interactive medium for both entertainment and education. The essentials of the CD-I standard are a CD-ROM drive with audio and video processors, a 68000-series microprocessor, and a real-time operating system.
Apple declared strong reservations about the standard, suggesting that its newest toy, the Apple IIGS, would be a better choice for audio and video programs for the consumer market. Company officials said that Apple had serious questions about the proprietary chip set selected by Philips for its CD-I products: specifications state that CD-I equipment must use Philips audio and video processors. Philips points out that while Apple is free to take a licence for Philips’ CD-I technology, Philips is not offered the opportunity of buying a licence to use Apple’s Macintosh technology. CP/M developer Gary Kildall, now president of KnowledgeSet, developing CD-ROM applications in Monterey, California is another critic of the closed architecture used by Philips in the CD-I format. He says he’d like to be able to buy the chip set and use it in a hybrid system, and while he’ll be happy to work with companies wanting to develop CD-I products, he wouldn’t invest any of his own money in the technology. Several companies have announced intentions to develop CD-I products, but they’re at least a year from market. Spinnaker, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Broderbund in San Rafael, California, and Aegis Development in Santa Monica, are among the firms to make public commitments. Aegis has begun begun work on its first CD-I title – Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – but its release will depend on arrival of hardware and development tools from Philips. Although first announced in March 1985, CD-I is still a long way from hitting the consumer market, acknowledges Richard Bruno, manager of the CD-I technical staff at Philips’ Eindhoven laboratories: he now says that prototypes of the drive will be available in January 1988 where as recently as October, he was talking in terms of the things being in the shops by the end of this year. Philips executives now see 1990 as breakthrough year for CD-I technology, and still look for it to grow into a billion-dollar industry.