Magazine article Management Review

The Wonderful World of CD-ROM

Magazine article Management Review

The Wonderful World of CD-ROM

Article excerpt

Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est.

What's the Latin basis of Francis Bacon's famous "Knowledge is Power" quotation. Today, this axiom is still true. Instead of Latin, you have to speak CDROM to turn knowledge into power. This rapidly growing technology puts information at the fingertips of organizations--information that was previously limited to deep-pocketed firms with mainframe computers or expensive consultants. Here are just several examples that illustrate how empowering CD-ROM-based information can be:

* Level the playing field: For less than $500, a small business can buy a CD-ROM disk with the same demographic data and analytical tools that are used by a multinational company.

* Increase your competitive edge: Salespeople can use CD-ROM-based data to obtain detailed corporate and market information on sales prospects, markets and competitors, even when traveling with laptop computers.

* Reduce costs: Trademark and logo searches can be done in-house in a few minutes, rather than hiring an outside firm. In addition, the printed contents of a company's entire technical library can be replaced with CD-ROM disks.

* Increase quality: Businesses can enliven their dull traditional presentations, brochures, sales materials and other printed documents with CD-ROM disks, including color animation and sound as well as interactive indexes and reader participation opportunities.

That is just the tip of CD-ROM potential as it exists today. Unfortunately, most businesses fail to take even minimum advantage of the most obvious uses. CD-ROM, which stands for Compact Disk-Read Only Memory, is a spinoff of the technology that produces CD disks now used for music (the two are identical in appearance). Instead of Dvorak's "New World" symphony, a CD-ROM can hold the equivalent of more than 470 high-density floppy disks worth of information, or the equivalent of phone listings for every household in the United States. Plus, there's the ability to sort, organize or search through this information in a matter of seconds. Add sound and video to a CD-ROM and it becomes multimedia. Anyone who's around children has probably seen multimedia in action in the form of Sega video games, which are superior to the cartridge-based Nintendo games in terms of animation, sound and fast action. Having seen how compelling multimedia can be, a few companies are now exploiting multimedia for employee training, product demonstrations, catalogs and promotion.

The excuse many businesses use for not doing more of this on CD-ROM is that videotapes do the same thing, but that is far from the truth. A videotape cannot be divided into chapters or lessons that are selected from a menu and supplemented by text, or quizzes, which interact with viewers and can be printed out. A final advantage is that a desktop PC equipped with a CD-ROM disk drive can play a multimedia disk, while few employees have a VCR and monitor in their office or cubicle.

No License to Drive

Unfortunately, too few employees have a PC equipped with a CD-ROM drive. Of the 3 million to 4 million drives sold last year, as many as 75 percent went into homes or were purchased by the government. The reason? Little effort has been made to show businesses what CD-ROM can do for them. The primary business use until 1993 was by software developers, who did much to improve the underlying technology and simplify use while benefiting from the tremendous data storage capacity of CDROM disks.

This small market was not enough to give birth to an industry. The computer manufacturers rode to the rescue. They saw CD-ROM as a way to showcase fancy PCs with graphically loaded CD-ROM game disks, even though a drive cost as much as $750 and a disk $100 as recently as 1992.

Despite the cost, the public, particularly children, liked what they saw. To make the price more attractive, the idea of "bundling," or giving away the disks to sell the drive, the tech equivalent of the classic Gillette approach of giving away the razors to sell the blades, emerged. …

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