CD-ROM Products Dominate Electronics Horizon

Article excerpt

By Gerry Yandel

Cox News Service

Here's some disturbing news, Mr. and Mrs. American Consumer.

Your electronic entertainment lives are about to become as organized as alphabet soup.

Start with these letters. CD-ROM.

It stands for a small silver disc that is played in a computer and offers a gargantuan amount of information storage space. With that space, computers can offer realistic video and high-quality sound.

You'll see them this year under the various names of CD-I, Sega CD, 3DO, CD-32, CD-V, CDG and CD-who-knows-what-all-else.

Unfortunately, like Beta videotape vs. VHS before it, the different CD-ROM formats are not compatible.

And trying to decide which CD-ROM system to go with can lead to an interactive, multimedia headache.

If last year was the year of the TV (22 million sold), then this year looks like the year of the interactive TV.

"In 1994 we'll probably see more and more multimedia and interactive players along with CD-ROM software," said Cynthia Upson, a spokeswoman for the Electronic Industries Association.

The industry organization estimates people spent $7.2 billion worldwide on CD-ROM hardware and software last year.

"Based on that number, we expect (sales) to increase as more consumers find out what CD-ROM is and how it works," Upson said.

Upson helps organize the Winter Consumer Electronics Show, where 1,725 companies are showing off computers, telephones, car gadgets, stereos, TVs, camcorders, video games and just about anything else that beeps, buzzes or hums. The show, which runs through Sunday in Las Vegas, is the showcase for the electronics industry, which last year had U.S. sales of nearly $40 billion.

Upson said a good portion of the products displayed at the show never make it into stores. The ones that do will be there "within six months," she said.

Expect to see the shelves stocked with CD-ROM players.

But whether they are still there at the end of the year is the dilemma facing anyone who wants to buy into interactive, multimedia technology.

"There's definitely a risk of orphan systems," said Marty Brochstein, managing editor of Consumer Multimedia Report. "There will not necessarily be a single standard, but there's no way five or six different systems are going to succeed. …