NEW YORK -- Several hardware and software companies, led by Microsoft Corp., introduced Tuesday Multimedia PC, a plan to put video, audio, animation, text and graphics into personal computers.
In a flashy news conference before a standing room only audience at the American Museum of National History in Manhattan, the vendors talked about -- and showed some of -- the supposed new age of computers that will incorporate sound and motion.
The vendors, who call themselves the Multimedia PC Marketing Council, demonstrated nursery rhymes that talk, travelogues that discuss the best restaurants in Moscow, a musical note-by-note analysis of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, complete with a picture of the composer, and a talking version of the Britannica Software's Compton's Encyclopedia.
William Gates, chairman of Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, the world's largest software company, told the audience, 'Multimedia is the new industry. We have audio, video, sight and sound.'
He predicted, 'When we look back, we'll see our first efforts were inadequate.'
Only 17 years old, the $100 billion personal computer industry already has 70 million machines installed, but still less than Gate's oft-stated goal of a computer on every desk and in every home. The pc industry began to boom 10 years ago after International Business Machines Corp., the world's largest computer manufacturer of Armonk, N. Y., introduced the pc, which popularized the machine.
Other companies have tried to introduce multimedia for pcs, but this is the first organized effort and has the might of Microsoft behind it. The Multimedia Council said its cornerstone is a common platform, all the multimedia programs will run on all the multimedia computers.
'It's hard for the industry to know what the impact of multimedia will be, but we do have the technology out there,' Gates said. 'The hardware, software and technology are in place.'
Gates then said multimedia was aimed at learning, working and playing.
Children could use multimedia to learn how to read. Working people could use it to help them in their current job or starting their own business and everyone could use multimedia for entertainment.
Besides children using the new technology for nursery rhymes, Gates showed a brief film clip on how American Airlines uses multimedia to pinpoint maintenance problems. The airline can show mechanics a picture of exactly where a problem lies.
Microsoft's Beethoven's Ninth Symphony showed a detailed explanation of the four movements of the symphony with sound and motion of the individual notes set against a sheet of music.
More than 40 software developers then demonstrated more than 60 multimedia pc titles in a nearby auditorium of the museum.
While the plans sounded ambitious, the realities were grimmer. Multimedia PC is starting with an installed computer base of zero.
About 10 companies in the organization plan to start manufacturing multimedia computers by the end of the year. Tandy Corp. of Fort Worth, Tex., is already shipping the multimedia pcs and Philips Consumer Electronics Co. of Knoxville, Tenn., plans to ship them by Nov. 15.
Frank Muniz, marketing manager for Philips, said the multimedia pcs will be priced at $1,999.
Consumers could also buy upgrade kits for $700 to $900 to enable their existing computers to have multimedia.