Despite being essentially boring technology (ooo, I can just tell some people aren’t going to like that one), CD applications are taking off. First there’s Kodak’s PhotoCD system for storing pictures, and now along comes Commodore with CDTV. CDTV is interesting because it’s basically a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or this case, a computer in CD’s clothing. For $999 list (I’m betting on serious discounts on this beast), you can get a CD-player that attaches to TV sets (I wonder if it will work with PhotoCD?) and which you can control with a standard infrared remote control unit. With the remote control you can push the buttons in CDTV-specific applications, and in doing so, play video games (though an optional trackball or joystick will be better for that), view multimedia presentations, and listen to audio recordings. Sounds like fun, no?
The deception is that inside CDTV is, as far as I can tell, most of a Commodore Amiga computer, much like the ultra-cool Video Toaster that has video people drooling in their keyboards. If you want, you can buy a hard disk, a floppy disk, a keyboard, a monitor, and probably a mouse, and poof, you’ve got an Amiga. I don’t know if you can go the other way if you already own an Amiga, but I wouldn’t be surprised. If you want to create CDs for CDTV, Commodore sells a complete authoring system based on the Amiga for under $10,000. Ten grand is a lot of money, but it’s a lot less than you’d pay for any other CD mastering system.
If you think about it, CDTV is trying for two markets, the video game market and the home computer market. The video game market is notoriously flaky and systems seldom spend more than a few years at the top, so CDTV may have some time there, but it’s unlikely to last. The home computer market is even more unpredictable, and hiding a computer inside a video game unit has produced some incredible flops, most notably the Coleco Adam computer. On the other hand, the Amiga can do some impressive things with sound and graphics, so CDTV has a chance if it comes in cheap enough. Alternately, I suppose Commodore could follow in the footsteps of the VCR marketers and release video game/multimedia versions of Debbie Does Dallas and Deep Throat. 🙂
Commodore — 800/448-9987
InfoWorld — 15-Apr-91, Vol. 13, #15, pg. 24