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/// Usenet Repost:  WOCA Report
    ---------------------------
    By Matt Guthrie
    (mguthrie@plum.az05.bull.com)



First off, let me state that I thought long and hard about which
newsgroup to post this in.  Not all of it is directly hardware-related,
but I wanted a big audience, and I refuse to subscribe to .advocacy,
so I chose .hardware.  I thought about .announce, but I couldn't
find Dan Zerkle's email address, and all the articles have expired
at our site, so I couldn't look it up.  If he wants to post this, or
if Dan Barrett wants to post this to comp.sys.amiga.reviews, it's not
a problem.

I only attended Saturday, and only attended the two seminars by CBM:
one about Commodore's plans, and the second about the FMV card for
the CD32.  I took detailed notes at the first one, but left my
notebook in the car when we went for lunch, and didn't have it for
the second one.

The first seminar was by Jim Dionne, president of C= US, and Lew
Eggebrecht, VP Engineering for C=.

Jim started out by recapping C='s performance over the last year.
Obviously it wasn't good, but he gave some good reasons.  First
of all, 80% of C='s business is in Europe, and the worldwide recession
hit Europe hard last year, as it did the US in 90-91.  The dollar
rose against the British pound and the Deutsche mark, so that meant
less money for C= (because most of their business is in non-US
currencies).  European PC margins finally began eroding as they did
in the US a couple of years ago.  Due to this, C= had large inventory
writedowns and other accounting losses.  Jim stressed that most of
the loss was not an operating loss, and intimated that the company
is still healthy operating-wise.

He then explained the company's re-org plan.  C= will de-emphasize PC's
and concentrate on Amigas, since that's their area of expertise.  Like
most companies, they are reducing staff, consolidating, and
streamlining their operations to reduce costs.  A few major changes will
be:

   1)  changing the current policy of a distribution center in each
       country to having 2 or 3 major distribution centers for all of
       Europe,
   2)  Consolidating manufacturing to their new plant in the Phillippines,
   3)  their new and exciting products.

Specific to the US, Jim said:

   1)  C= will no longer sell direct to dealers -- they'll sell to a
       few regional distributors only.  This will allow them to
       streamline paperwork, accounting, etc.
   2)  They've out-sourced their service program.  Jim admitted that
       C='s service has had problems, and out-sourcing it to a company
       that only focuses on service will improve it.
   3)  C= will emphasize the 4000 in the video and animation markets.
       The 1200 is a tough sell against 386/486 systems, and while
       not abandoning the line, they're not going to put much behind
       it.

Some other notes:

   1)  C= will *really* stress the CD32, not just as a game machine, but
       for kiosk and corporate training/presentation systems.
   2)  The 4000T will be out before year-end.  Features include 2 video
       slots, SCSI on the motherboard, 5 Z3 slots, and 5 drive bays.
   3)  The CD32 will be introduced on a limited scale in the US in Nov.
       (One of the main reasons is C= can't build enough to satisfy the
       projected demand -- the Phillipines plant is producing 20,000 each
       week.)  The full-scale media blitz will begin with the January CES
       show in Las Vegas.  MSRP will be under $400 for the base unit.
   4)  The CD32 will be sold "everywhere Sega is sold."  That means
       Wal-Mart and similar stores.  Jim said they were considering
       some new advertising ideas, and specifically mentioned 30-minute
       info-mercials as a distinct possibility.
   5)  The CD32-compatible add-on CD drives for AGA Amigas will be
       available after the introduction of the FMV card for the CD32
       in November.
   6)  The cost of a CD32 + FMV card will be less than a 3DO system.


                      ------------------------------


Lew Eggebrecht's talk was composed of two parts:  the CD32, and the status
of development projects at C=.

The CD32 project began at the same time as the 1200.  C= learned a lot
from CDTV, one of the most important of which was if you advertise it
as being able to do all this stuff (as CDTV was), consumers get confused.
So, with CD32, they designed another highly-expandable system, but aren't
going to tell consumers about it.  It will be advertised as a game
machine, period.  (Until more software/hardware comes out, then they can
tell consumers, "By the way, your CD32 can do that and that and that,
too.")  Also, C= spent a lot of time asking customers, developers,
etc., what they wanted, and Lew thinks they've done it.

Since it's being billed as a games machine, it has to be competitive
with Sega.  At it's intro price of #299UK, it's less than the Sega CD
unit, and approximately 15X more performant.

Here are some technical specs:

 -- AGA chipset, Motorola 68EC020, 2MB RAM (Chip), 1MB ROM (ADOS 3.1).
 -- Sony CD mechanism with C= microcode (2X multisession-capable)
     (that means it can read PhotoCD's, but no Kodak license yet :( )
 -- 1KB EEPROM for hiscore tables, bookmarks, etc.
 -- 4 voice Amiga stereo, 16-bit CD stereo, stereo line out, headphone
    jack w/volume control
 -- RF out (built-in modulator), composite out, S-Video out (Lew said
    that S-Video out gives dramatic video improvement)
 -- with the AGA chipset, every pixel can be a different color at
    standard TV resolutions.  (I suppose that's not the case if you're
    using S-Video.)
 -- Aux. port with 2 serial ports, compatible with the Amiga keyboard.
    Possible add-ons include infrared boxes, virtual reality periphs.
 -- Expansion bus in back for 1 card.  Contains full CPU bus, full
    video bus, full audio bus.  (The MPEG card needs all of those.)
 -- 2 controller ports, with the capability to daisy-chain 8
    controllers per port.  That's right.  You could have a 16-player
    game.  BTW, the unit comes with 1 controller.  Additional ones
    will be sold separately.

Let's talk software.  The CD32 will play audio CD's, CD+G CD's, some
CDTV CD's, and Karaoke (aka VideoCD) CD's, in addition to CD32 titles.
One thing he mentioned is that a company is currently putting all of
the classic Star Trek titles on VideoCD for sale next year.  (heh heh,
cool, heh heh.)

Regarding the CDTV titles, Lew stated that 130 titles were made for CDTV.
C= researched the 30 most popular titles, and bent over backward to
make sure that those 30 work on CD32.  I requested a list from a C=
person; I'll post it when it gets here.

For a change, C= didn't have to pay developers to develop for CD32.
People were so excited about the new platform, they developed on their
own.  Lew said that there *will* be 50 titles available by Christmas,
and the actual number will probably be closer to 75.  One reason
C= is excited about their prospects for CD32 is production costs.
Cartridge cases cost about $10-$20 each, and since they're burned-in
PROMs, they require a 6-8 week lead time.  CD's on the other hand,
cost about $1 each, and need no lead time -- mastering houses can
pump out 20,000 CD's every day.  In the final analysis, producing
CD-games costs about 1/2 what producing cartridge games does.

OK.  I lied in the first post.  There will be 3 parts to this article.
The next part will be the status of other projects at C=, and my
impressions of the FMV card.


                      ------------------------------


Lew finished his talk by discussing some of the ongoing projects at C=.

AAA chipset:

   First pass of silicon has been completed, and they had the OS up and
   running, "blitting around 24-bit objects" and such.  Second silicon
   pass is scheduled for this month.  C= expects to have a full-functioning
   AAA Amiga system by 1Q94.  Systems could be shipped by 3Q94, unless
   multiple more silicon passes are required.

4000 Tower:

   Production of this system has been delayed by the rampup of CD32.  There
   was a system (open to view) at the Commodore booth with a big sticker
   saying something like, "This product has not yet received FCC approval
   -- Not for Sale."  As I stated in part 1, they expect it to ship by
   year-end.

4091 SCSI-2 card:

   My notes get sketchy.  Something about "negotiations with 3rd parties
   not yet completed".  C= is restarting production and the 4091 should
   be available in 6-8 weeks.

DSP board:

   Project put on hold by CD32.  Will be restarted after Jan 1.

CD add-on for AGA Amigas:

   Will ship before year end, maybe slightly after Christmas.

RTG:

   Will be coupled with new AAA system, mid-late next year.

Networking:

   This was a little distressing.  C= is willing to give their
   networking technology away to a 3rd party, basically for free.
   Seems like they have no networking expertise left in-house
   and are counting on someone else to take up the slack.  If
   I only had a few hundred thousand to start my own company....

AmigaDOS 3.1:

   Available 6-8 weeks.  First release will be for A4000, later
   for older machines, but it will have a different nomenclature
   (i.e., it won't be called AmigaDOS 3.1).

RISC:

   First, Lew rhetorically asked, "Why RISC?"  He answered himself
   by saying that it would add graphics accelleration, i.e., realtime
   3D rendering, and multiple OS support like Windows NT and UNIX.  He
   said that C= has not made a final decision yet, and listed some
   of the choices, with pros and cons.  He did say that the Alpha
   was probably beyond C='s desired price point, and hinted that
   PA-RISC (by Hewlett-Packard) looks attractive due to their good
   multimedia support.  (My bet is this is the one C= picks.)

   He stressed that C= will continue to support the Motorola line
   and AmigaDOS, and that anything for RISC would be in addition to
   AmigaDOS.  Target for an Amiga RISC system is 1995.

   Regarding the Motorola line, Lew said he met with execs at Motorola
   last week, and support of the 68060 is assured, and Motorola even
   said they will continue to provide stuff beyond the 68060.


[end of Dionne/Eggebrecht seminar]


Well, this article is getting a little long, but rather than break it
into four parts, I'll just forge ahead and talk about the FMV card.

The second seminar I attended was by Jeff Porter and ??? (whoops, I
forgot his name) from C= International.  Let me first say that Jeff
Porter is absolutely hilarious and I'd really enjoy working for him
(yeah, right, like that's ever gonna happen).

As I said in part one, I didn't take notes at this, so there's a lot
I've forgotten.  What I do remember are the demos of the board.  I
can sum up my impressions in 3 words:  Absolutely Freakin' Amazing.
They had a demo CD with 3 music videos on it:  Bon Jovi's "Blaze of
Glory", one by Enya, and Seal's "Killer".  They had a projection-TV
setup, and I'm serious -- you could not tell it wasn't broadcast.
Full-screen, full-motion video.  The presenters pointed out artifacts
like the sun reflecting off Jon Bon Jovi's guitar, but it was *really*
nit-picky.  You have to know what you're looking for, and probably
have the original next to it to differentiate.

The interface for the VideoCD is very similar to the CDTV audio
CD interface.  It's a little cleaner, though, and the "compact disc
digital audio" logo is a nice touch.

They spent some time talking about MPEG and VideoCD technology, which
bored most everyone.  The demos were the thing, and they were mind-
blowing.


Some final thoughts.  There have been a lot of threads about C=
is doomed, C= can't do anything right, etc. (and I don't mean just
on .advocacy, because I don't read that one).  Well, from what I saw
at WOCA, C= is doing some things right.  It seemed very clear to
me that they're betting the farm on CD32 (Jim Dionne said they
expect it to be the next C64, which sold 17 million units).  If
you guys want to save C=, buy a CD32 and tell your friends
(not just your Amiga friends, but your Sega/Nintendo-playing
friends) to buy one, as well.   Stop whining about, "will it plug
into my 1200/4000/3000?"  Buy it to replace your Nintendo.  Invite
your friends over after you get one so they can see all the cool
games you have, then tell them it's less than the Sega CD system,
and *way* less than 3DO.  Try doing something constructive to help,
rather than whining all the time.

                                   Matt