From the January 9, 1995 issue of Smart

Special Report: Winter CES Preview

By David English

While the computer category represents only a fraction of the total CES, it's easily the fastest-growing category. This year more than 178 computer-related product companies will be exhibiting at Winter CES, occupying nearly 135,000 net square feet located in the North 1 and 2 halls, as well as the South 6 buildings and pavilions.

The computer area has nearly quadrupled since 1987, when the Electronic Industries Association's Consumer Electronics Group (CEG) officially give the category its own section. According to a voluntary survey of preregistered buyers conducted by the CEG, more than 20 percent of domestic buyers say computer products are relevant to their business objectives. Among international buyers, 14 percent find computer products relevant to their businesses.

During the past two years, the biggest growth in the category has come from multimedia. According to the CEG, interest from attendees in CD-ROM hardware and software grew from 13 percent at the 1993 Winter CES to roughly 21 percent at the 1994 Winter CES. This year, the area of the show devoted to multimedia will be twice as large as last year.

So Much to Do
With over 1,800 exhibits and 90,000 attendees, no one will enough time to see everything. Highlights from this year's show will include a one-hour presentation by Bill Gates, chairman and CEO of Microsoft. Gates will outline major trends in the consumer electronics market and demonstrate new and innovative products that will change the way consumers interact with computers at home. It's called Executive Perspective is scheduled for Saturday, January 7, at 10:00 a.m. in the Las Vegas Hilton Ballroom.

This year marks the first time that the Electronic Industries Association's Innovations awards will be announced at Winter CES. The awards honor excellence in design and engineering in both hardware and software. Selected winning products will be on display in Pavilion E.

Winter CES will also host more than 40 educational sessions led by industry experts in areas that include multimedia, audio/video, small office/home office (SOHO), home theater, mobile electronics, and specialty audio.

If you're looking for computers and software, the Multimedia Pavilion is a great place to start. Returning for its second Winter CES, the Pavilion will include companies such as Midisoft, Putnam New Media, SRS Labs, and Times Mirror Multimedia. The Multimedia Pavilion is part of an even larger multimedia area, which will host companies such as Altec Lansing Multimedia, Creative Labs, The Discovery Channel, Roland, ThinKware, and Time Warner Interactive Group.

As you would expect, there will be many new product announcements at CES. The show is a great opportunity to preview products that will ship during the first and second quarters of the year. Some vendors will reveal their plans for the rest of the year, though software shipping dates for the second half of the year are little more than best guesses at this point. It's also a time to catch up on those products that you passed over at the end of 1994 or take a second look at products that missed their pre-Christmas shipping dates.

Hot New Games at CES
As a follow-up to the success of Return to Zork, Activision will preview another state-of-the-art update of a classic Infocom adventure game. Planetfall is the graphics-based sequel to the text-based science-fiction adventure game of the same name. The game will feature a cast of 15 to 25 Hollywood actors; futuristic animations; full-screen, full-motion video; and an original musical score. Planetfall will be available for both PC and Macintosh CD-ROM in the spring.

Activision will showcase two more blasts from the past. Shanghai: Great Moments, a CD-ROM-based strategy game for the PC and Macintosh, features Rosalind Chao (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and The Joy Luck Club) as emcee. The disc includes three new games: Action Shanghai, Beijing, and The Great Wall, as well as Classic Shanghai. It's scheduled for release early this year.

Many of us remember the Atari 2600 cartridge games that customers were so crazy for back in 1981 and 1982. Activision is bringing them to Windows in both floppy and CD-ROM formats. The first of four Action Packs includes Pitfall!, Kaboom, River Raid, Chopper Command, and Grand Prix. Best of all, the package has an SRP of just $29.95.

Interplay will have several new games at CES including Frankenstein, which lets you experience the game through the eyes of the monster; Chess for Kids, which is designed to teach chess to children; USCF Chess, which lets you get initial qualification for chess tournaments; and SimAnt and SimPlanet, which are the CD-ROM versions of two previous games from Maxis. At the show you can also see Virtual Pool and Beat the House.

Sony Imagesoft is bringing the future to both computer and movie screens—simultaneously. The company is scheduled to release the PC/Macintosh CD-ROM and Sega CD versions of Johnny Mnemonic at the same time as the release of the TriStar Pictures movie of the same name. Johnny Mnemonic is a twenty-first-century data courier who transports confidential information in memory chips implanted in his brain. The game features multiple-character role-playing, real-time fight scenes, and a story that appears to change each time it's played.

Not content to rest on its laurels, Sierra On-Line will show its recently shipping King's Quest VII, which is available for both Windows and Macintosh CD-ROM. An easy point-and-click interface and innovative game-saving system make this an excellent choice for novice gamers. Sierra will also preview its most ambitious title ever, Phantasmagoria. It's a multiple CD-ROM thriller from Roberta Williams that's one of the most highly anticipated computer games of the year.

If your customers are snatching up copies of Star Trek: The Next Generation—Interactive Technical Manual as fast as you can put them on the shelf, they'll go ballistic over Star Trek: The Next Generation "A Final Unity" from Spectrum-HoloByte. The PC CD-ROM features the voices of all seven of the principal actors from the popular television series and recent motion picture. In order to ensure the authenticity of the game, the television series scriptwriters approved each line of the script, and the actors approved their character likenesses. The interactive space adventure includes music and sound effects from the television series and 3-D-rendered animations of the Enterprise.

Spectrum HoloByte will also show two new puzzle games, called Knight Moves and ClockWerz. They're the latest titles to be endorsed by Alexey Pajitnov, creator of Tetris, and they'll be available in floppy and CD-ROM formats for both Windows and Macintosh. And MicroProse, a division of Spectrum HoloByte, will formally announce Macintosh and multimedia versions of Sid Meier's Colonization.

LucasArts has had its share of recent successes with X-Wing, Rebel Assault, and TIE Fighter. At CES, the company will introduce Indiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures, which is scheduled for release in the first half of 1995. The Windows-based program uses a game-generating engine that can create millions of short game scenarios. It's for people "who like adventure games, but don't always have 40 hours free to finish one," says Hal Barwood, project leader for Indy Desktop. "Each game can be won in under an hour, and then a new game, with new characters, puzzles, and treasures, can be started." The program will ship on a single high-density disk.

You can also see more complete versions of Dark Forces, a first-person 3-D action game with a new Star Wars story, and Full Throttle, an original adventure game. Both are from LucasArts, and both will ship in the first quarter.

Sometimes, the software business seems just like Hollywood—every top seller seems to generate the inevitable sequel. Sanctuary Woods will preview Buried in Time, the follow-up to The Journeyman Project and The Journeyman Project Turbo. All three titles were designed by the highly creative team at Presto Studios. Buried in Time features state-of-the-art live-action characters and 25,000 action-packed screens. The program is scheduled to ship in April.

Sanctuary Woods will also show The Riddle of Master Lu, a game based on the life and times of Robert Leroy Ripley, of "Believe It or Not" fame. The 1930s mystery involves such real-life oddities as a shrunken head, an iron maiden, and a Mona Lisa made entirely from toast. It's scheduled for an April release.

Despite the baseball strike, the nation still has an insatiable appetite for almost anything that has to do with the sport. Baseball for Windows fans can now hear real color and play-by-play from broadcaster Ernie Harwell, one of the classic voices of baseball. The Ernie Harwell Broadcast Pack will be available on CD-ROM from Miller Associates.

Don't look on the show floor for Time Warner Interactive; the company will be off site at the St. Tropez Hotel. Time Warner will show Conqueror, a role-playing strategy game for PC CD-ROM set in medieval times; Fast Attack, a nuclear submarine simulator for the PC; and The Incredible Adventures of Aristotle McGuffin, a fast-paced education adventure for both PC and Mac that takes place in medieval England. All three titles are scheduled for an April/May release.

If you think Discis does only educational programs, think again. The company's Jewels of the Oracle looks terrific and is being released in three stages. In the first stage, a single puzzle will be given away free on the Internet. The second stage involves the distribution of a three-puzzle sampler. The third stage is the final product, which will be available at retail in February.

At the Davidson & Associates booth, Blizzard Entertainment will show the recently shipping version of WarCraft: Orcs and Humans. It includes 3-D scenes, extensive voice-over narration, sound effects in both human and orc languages, and a soundtrack of classical war music. This real-time strategic contest is available in DOS CD-ROM and floppy formats.

Hot New Education Titles at CES
Maxis will premiere its latest installment in the popular Sim series. This one is called SimIsle, Missions in the Rainforest. The CD-ROM program uses video and sound effects to simulate one of the world's most exotic locales: a tropical rain forest. Given the success of the updated versions of SimCity, this title should do well at retail.

Also from Maxis is Zaark's In Search of Patterns!, the first release in the Zaark & the Night Team series. In this program, children accompany Zaark, a rodentlike know-it-all, on four different missions that demonstrate how art, music, shapes, and numbers are made up of patterns.

Speaking of rain forest programs, Soleil Software will demo the full-working version of Zurk's Rainforest Lab for the first time—though the program has been shipping since late November. The Windows/Macintosh CD-ROM is designed for children aged 5 to 9 and includes five activities that help children sharpen their reading, writing, and critical-thinking skills while learning basic math, geometry, and life science.

DK Multimedia plans to announce four new CD-ROM titles at CES. World Reference Atlas features more than 400,000 words; 9,000 screens and pop-up windows; 600 maps you can zoom; and 500 color photographs and video sequences. The Eyewitness Encyclopedia of Nature and The Eyewitness History of the World are two companion titles to DK's critically acclaimed Eyewitness Encyclopedia of Science. P.B. Bear's Birthday Party helps children learn new words by translating a series of pictures into an entertaining story. All four titles are scheduled to ship in the spring.

GemMedia will show two new educational titles: Chugalong Goes to Playland and 3001: A Reading and Math Odyssey. Chugalong Goes to Playland is a CD-ROM program for children aged 3 to 6. Chugalong, an animated 3-D train, and his friends Mikey and Michelle learn reading skills as they explore a circus, farm, and zoo. The second title, 3001: A Reading and Math Odyssey, is a CD-ROM adventure for children aged 8 to 14. GemMedia has signed an affiliate label distribution agreement with Maxis.

Not All Games and Education
CES isn't just fun and learning—computer buyers need to get some work done occasionally. Peachtree comes to the rescue with its new Peachtree First Accounting. According to the company, the program is aimed at business customers who buy Quicken, Best Books, and One-Write Plus, and offers better tracking, more ease-of-use features, and more templates than competing low-price accounting products. The program has an SRP of just $69.

On the hardware side, Compaq will show the entire updated Presario line for the first time. If you've cherry-picked the line, here's your chance to compare all of the models. The display will include the innovative Compaq Presario 500 Series computers, which combine a multimedia PC with integrated speakers, television, and speakerphone, and the Compaq Presario Multimedia Monitors, which combine either a 14- or 15-inch color monitor with integrated stereo speakers and microphone.

Why Go to CES?

Why do retailers go to CES when they could easily stay behind and catch up on work left over from the holidays?

Tom Freeman will go to see the multimedia and Pentium PCs. He's vice president of merchandising for Sound Advice, a 21-store electronics retailer based in Dania, Florida. This past October, his company began selling high-end multimedia PCs to complement its high-end audio lines. Freeman, who has been going to CES for 14 years, says that the CES exhibitors are mostly large companies now, as many small vendors have merged or been eaten up by competitors.

As an associate buyer for Sears, Ezra Chen will be more selective than most buyers and look for non-controversial software titles. Chen expects to see more computer hardware at this CES than he saw at the Summer CES in Chicago, which he views as primarily a gaming show. Chen saw games and multimedia titles really take off before Christmas, so he's looking to stock up on both.

Kenner Costen goes to CES to see pre-release computer products. That way he can get a jump on those customers who read about products as soon as they come out. He's a home-office specialist at the Ultimate Electronics store on South Rainbow Boulevard in Las Vegas. According to Costen, the growth of computers at CES reflects the fact that computers have become a necessity, not just a high-end toy. "We've got kids in preschool who are taking computer classes," says Costen. "We have eight-year-olds who walk in here with Internet addresses and talk about getting Internet mail."

The top salesman from Las Vegas's Computer City, Carlos Gonzales, looks to CES for "everything you can expect and everything you don't expect." He has attended most of the Winter CESs over the past 12 years. "When I first started, we only had small monochrome screens," says Gonzales. "With the sophistication and talent that's going on right now, it's nothing short of Star Wars. Anything you can conceive, they'll have a program that will do it. As soon as they have one that makes pepperoni pizza and has a refrigerator in it, you won't see me anymore."

Computers and CES: We've Come a Long Way

Personal computers have come a long way since they earned their own section at the Winter CES in 1987. Back then consumers could get a great deal on a powerful PC—or so it seemed at the time.

Imagine you've just gotten back from the 1987 Winter CES, and John Smith walks into your computer store looking for the latest PC. The machine he really wants is the speedy 8-MHz IBM AT, which includes 512K of RAM, a 30MB hard drive, eight expansion slots, and a 90-day on-site service contract. Available at retail for the princely sum of $4,299, the price doesn't include a monitor or graphics card—which would run another $250-$700, depending on whether he wants monochrome or color.

Of course, he'll need a modem, so be sure and throw in a Hayes 2400 baud Smartmodem—only $499 for the internal model or $559 for the external model. A 60MB external tape drive from Everex will set him back another $935, and a second hard drive for his AT, perhaps a Seagate 40MB, will add another $879. After spending $3,000 for his Hewlett-Packard LaserJet Printer, you might convince him to add PostScript to his printer with a $2,995 PS Jet upgrade board. And if he's a busy executive on the go, he might also be interested in Toshiba's dual-floppy T1100 Plus laptop, which weighs only 10 pounds and costs about $1,799.

One last thing: Don't forget to tell him how all this state-of-the-art equipment will hold its value for many years to come—perhaps as long as January 1995

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