>> Thursday, June 1, 2006
A few month back I was quite surprised to find an online article about the similarities between the Revolution controller and the CD-i controller. As most of the other critics I thought this was just a joke and a pure rubbish similarity. Later I came to mind the coincidence may turn out to have a little more in common with each other than you might think.
This is the thing. On the 1st of June the only other active CD-i community Le Monde du CD-i has published an article about the similarities between the Philips CD-i and the next generation consoles. And that is just after some research I did because of this topic. I think it's a nice thing to review this and comment with my research on at least a small part of the content: The controller. In this case, I finally use the column in its right purpose: criticism...
I started to look out for the manufacturing part of the Philips products and realizing the "Philips Design" department was responsible for the looks of several CD-i models. Because the Matchline range is hot property of Philips Design the lead was simple, although my main interest was about the CD-i 450 console. The story behind this cheaper model was common, although the internet is a little on the contrary about this. Maybe it's part of journalism: talk about it the way you like it :D. However, it is stated the model is derived from the rival consoles, to let it compete with the 'entertainment business' of videogames. As far as I can look back on it the 450 model is frabicated only this way to reduce costs. The top loader is the main part that they changed about it and the cheaper design made it possible within the policy of Philips to use the Magnavox brand name on it. This was marked as a special event because of the reputation Magnavox had with videogames. Although Philips states this had nothing to with it. Do you remember the CD-i controller which was not developed by Philips but it was Logitech who licensed the product to Philips. The portable CD-i 370 was not developed by Philips but was a licensed product of LG Electronics. Because the source of the 450 model remains unsure to me this was partly a dead end. Well, this is one reason the story was 'on hold'. Now, a part two is hopefully coming up.
It turns out more peripherals were licensed products. In the end, only the CD-i mouse and trackball are original Philips products. And ofcourse the thumbstick. It is the thumbstick the story is partly about. (Note the thumbstick is not an analogue stick, like Le Monde du CD-i claims it to be) I showed a close source the article Le Monde du CD-i posted the same day (fast, huh!) to gain his insight on the matter: "It's not totally ridiculous to think like this. Philips licensed and patented CD-i parts and later licensed its products to other companies. Lay-outs are copyrighted but it is easy to get around the design and still implement the core architecture in your product. You noticed the Playstation suddenly offers a moving sensor in its controller. Something that was patented by Nintendo for the Wii console. That's just part of the business. It is possible Nintendo got a draw from the original cd-i controller but I don't think it happened like that."
While I feel there is a lot of discussion possible around these so-called similarities, the article from Le Monde brings up a hilarious one: The case of the Playstation 3. On this level I can show you lots of similarities between all kinds of consoles. But as far as your imagination reaches every console learns from previous mistakes. And true to that I feel the looks of Playstation 3 are outdated and non attractive. Try to convince me otherwise. Don't get me started on the CD-i 360 vs Xbox 360 coincidence. It's good for a laugh, yes.
However, I have been thinking about the variety of possibilities the next gen consoles offer. I think I posted about this on the forum as well, but the ability for you to offer the internet through a game console was a true innovative move of Philips to show the capabilities of CD-i. Obviously this was far ahead of its time, the internet was brand new and very slow. Sony wanted to offer more online content with the Playstation 2 but they wanted to shift this until broadband was widely available. On the other hand, it's just about the multiplayer games. Multiplayer is just the right extension to single players using two controllers on the same console. So it's far from a legal issue rather than the right move to take interactive gaming in. The internet is a small addition when you offer multiplayer games via the internet. When you look at it like this, I feel Philips added the online possiblities to offer the internet to the consumer home market. Sony and Microsoft want you to play online games against eachother, (just like our good old Ram Raid), primarily.
Like the last generation consoles (xbox, ps2) offered dvd playback, it never was the main core reason to buy the system. The DVD player was inferior to the single DVD units but never used for true "interactive movies". However, the platform (DVD) is not a standard from a part of the business. It's THE standard now. That's what makes it a success in my opinion. Playstation Portable now makes the same mistake using the UMD format. And as you may have read here, the UMD Movie format is almost dead just like the ill-fated VideoCD format was doomed to fail. It's not a standard widely used. Now it's part of the Multimedia idea to offer a variety of discs like movies, games and internet. It's a preface to the arrival of the Media Centres. Watch my step when I say Microsoft will finally conquer the console world by offering the Next XBOX with Media Centre possiblities. I feel they're doing the job Philips wanted to do in the Ninetees. The resume of Microsoft is much stronger so it's not even a close call about whose going to win.
OK, let's go back to CD-i. The Philips slogan 'Philips Invents For You" wasn't so bad at all, and Omegalfa from Le Monde du CD-i is right to conclude his article with the fact that they did create a similar product which was criticized a lot in the early ninetees. Philips CD-i wasn't bad at all. It was just ahead of its time.