>> Sunday, July 29, 2007
Finally, the story I hinted to a while back is published and that means we can dig a little deeper to the details. Because this is something special; I think it's the first time around we meet with an unreleased hardware peripheral (if we don't count the mystery around the Tele CD-i Assistant!). If you remember the picture from this post you know what to expect: This is like a combination of the trackball and the Commander/thumbstick. One innovative extra is the ability to recharge the device, so there's no need for batteries anymore. The Black Moon Project interviewed Peer Custers, working in Product Management at Philips, a "linking pin" between market and industry of Philips CD-i.
Ofcourse, Interactive Dreams jumps on the wagon to post our favourite bits in a compilation. Peer: "CD-i wasn’t only a new format, it combined other formats as well. It appeared that this confused the consumer and it was quite difficult, to say the least, to bring the message across.
In the early days of Video CD films it clearly could be noticed that the encoding technology had to be sophisticated as the compression rate was too high. This resulted in visible “blocks”. A good example for this phenomenon was the first release of the “Hunt for Red October”.
A gaming module that would fit in the DVC slot has never been seriously planned. There was this generic policy that CD-i should remain a multi-standard product, e.g. CD-Audio, Photo CD, Video CD and CD-i applications capable. At that time our IMS (Interactive Media Systems) organisation had no experience at all in games. Yes, there were games, but as I stated in an earlier interview: no interest in the design and development of real games related devices. To introduce a successful games platform one needs a dedicated organisation with staff that is hooked up to games. You should understand gamers to be able to make games.
That prototype you see on these pictures actually would have come into production were it not that at that time the decision already had been taken to stop future developments in CD-i. The prototype Steph has actually is a sample of the second Trial Run. In parallel with the controller a docking station was developed to charge the batteries. This controller was designed on one hand to better meet gamers’ requirements whilst at the same time it also could be used for generic CD-i purposes, like with the first set of CD-i controllers. The device also has been designed symmetrically in view of persons that are left handed.
The Commander might look a bit awkward, as its tip containing the IR transmitter points down. As this is unusual in the world of remote control, it needs a bit of elucidation. During various tests over time with consumer behaviour I always noticed that people tend to bend their hand down in which they hold a remote control and "shoot" at the set. CD-i however, because of its interactive nature, requires bending your hand in that position for quite a long time. And that is inconvenient as you tend to overstrain. In the designing stage I requested our design people to modify the shape of the Commander and put the nose under an angle of approx, 30° downwards.
The multitude of CD-i players was greatly a necessary evil, as we say in Dutch. First of all there was an enormous pressure on cost price as well a need to extend the product range offering the consumer a choice. Cost price reduction were obtained by developing new generations of “mother boards” as we would call them now. Integration of CD-i in TV and in audio stacks was envisaged and realised in the later phase of CD-i. Secondly there was the fact that we had to cater for a professional market as well. The professional market started to discover the benefits of a CD-i player attached to a TV in comparison of a PC with a monitor.
The CD-i player was positioned as a very versatile product: you could play your Audio CD's, you could show your photo's, you could play games, you could watch movies. All kinds of interactive applications both for the consumer as for the professional market were developed. A dedicated product (a CD player, a Photo CD player, a games machine): that was understood, but a CD-i player with all its possibilities? Interactivity: what is that? The beginning of the fall of CD-i was the fact that the consumer did not understand "interactivity". Marketing communications did not succeed in bringing the message across. Exit CD-i."
More? Click here to read the full interview!
Peer Custers was interviewed by Devin. With many thanks to Peer for answering our questions, and a debt of gratitude to Steph for his help and persistance! (c)2007 The Black Moon Project