has taken a
while, but multimedia's benefits for business are becoming clear
by Alan Zisman (c) 1995 First published
in Business in
Vancouver , Issue #297 July 4, 1995 High Tech
home computer sales these days is multimedia--CD-ROMs, sound cards
and speakers that, added together, make the home computer a potent
games machine at only 10 to 15 times the cost of a dedicated games
computer like a Sega or Nintendo.
add-ons are also
being targeted at business users. But is there any need for multimedia
in the office? Or is this just a move by your employees to try to
goof off playing games on company time?
there are some
legitimate uses for multimedia in the business context. For example,
those inevitable presentations have evolved from static slides and
overheads. Now multimedia presentations can include sound and video
as well as fancy dissolves between frames. At least some of you will
want access to sound cards and speakers, as well as to CD-ROMs full
of sound and video clips for this purpose.
can benefit from the multimedia tutorials that have begun sprouting
up on at least a few of the CD-ROM versions of business programs. Lotus,
for instance, has done a good job of including
CD-based animated tutorials with recent versions of its spreadsheets.
As well, it has released ScreenCam, which allows you to create your
own movies of what's happening on screen, adding voice-over if
good tool for producing in-house tutorials.
of the CorelDraw illustration package came with a VHS-format
videotape tutorial: now the tutorial is on CD-ROM. It isn't multimedia,
but there is a growing justification for CD-ROM players on business
machines for the painful task of installing software. If you upgrade
to Windows 95 sometime this fall, you can look forward to flipping
through a dozen and a half or so floppy disks. OS/2 Warp takes a
number. Or count the disks in an Office-type application suite. Any
of these products is much easier to install from a single CD-ROM disk.
Moreover, a CD-ROM is less likely to become damaged, and it can't be
accidentally deleted or formatted.
space? Many applications will let you add a bare minimum of files
to your drive, running the less-often-used code from the CD-ROM disk.
And there are a growing number of reference disks, from the original
CD-ROM best-seller Microsoft Bookshelf, with its dictionary,
quotations, thesaurus, atlas, almanac and so forth, to Canadian postal
codes, street atlases (every street in the U.S.), all of Canada's
phone books, census data, and more.
player (or even better, a multi-disk player) on the network can be
accessed by all your machines. CD-ROM is becoming the distribution
medium of choice for many software producers. It costs only a dollar
or so to produce disks in quantity (the plastic box may cost more than
the disk it holds) and when you put the documentation on disk instead
of printed volumes, there are big cost savings.
these even get
passed on to the consumer. For example, Apple's System 7
system upgrade was sold, a few years ago, in traditional floppy disk
format for about $100. The latest, System 7.5, is included as a free
CD-ROM disk with the purchase of a $4.95 computer magazine.
CD-ROM may be
a superior way to distribute or install large amounts of software,
and it's ideal for accessing large databases, some of the attempts
to sell multimedia to business have bordered on the hype reminiscent
of the first wave of home computers. Just as early '80s home users
realized that they really didn't need a computer to balance the
or store recipes, many business users justifiably recoil when they're
told to get a multimedia-capable computer so that they can add
to their spreadsheets. (Yes, you really can do this with today's
and software: add an icon that, when clicked, plays back your voice
explaining what the number in cell D17 really means. But does
anyone actually do this? If I'm missing the point here, please send me
e-mail and let me know!)
may turn into a valid application requiring multimedia capability,
but we're not there just yet. Still, it's a mistake to react to the
hype and assume that there are no valid uses for CD-ROM or sound
for the computers in your office. From installing software to accessing
disks full of information to running (or creating your own) multimedia
training and presentations, there is a place for multimedia and CD-ROM.
Just turn the volume down, please