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Teleshuttle CorporationAll power to the Web
CD-ROM is dead -- or is it?

Richard R. Reisman, President, Teleshuttle Corporation

(Published in New York New Media Association News, August 1996, in slightly condensed form;
earlier version published online as a January 1996 Teleshuttle white paper on Distributed Media.)

The future is online…but local media will never die!

Yes, CD-ROM publishers are reeling from a shakeout, the distribution model is a killer, and the product seems to have limited appeal. As the world beats a path to the Web, why bother with a static, limited medium like CD-ROM?

But the world is beginning to recognize that purely online solutions have serious problems as well. Pundits and the press are racing to foretell The Great Web Crash of '96.

Hype and market perception swing to simplistic extremes, but the real tidal forces move in a more steady flow, one that is visible if you trouble to understand the underlying dynamics. Survival in this business depends on reading the tides.

The pre-emininent technology pragmatist of our day, Bill Gates, recently observed (to little note) that "…CD-ROM technology will continue to play a role in the content business for some time. But it is important to note that…the CD-ROM, online services, and the Internet…will no longer be viewed as independent."*

The issue is not whether CD-ROM formats will survive in their current form, but how local media of some kind will be used as a complement to remote network services. Such combinations meld pre-positioned masses of content on the CD (or DVD), with up-to-the-minute content on the net, into a seamless, high-power browsing experience. Users can start from the CD and link in Web content, or can start from the Web, and drop in the CD as a pre-loaded cache.

The case for combinations of local media with Web is compelling for a variety of powerful reasons:

Distributed media: optimizing accessibility, timeliness, performance, and economy

Use of CD-ROM/online combinations is still in its infancy, and approaches, formats, and tools are still formative. Just as the major online services and independents like Teleshuttle started to make such combinations a ready option, the focal point of publishing has shifted to the Web. Limited links from CDs to the Web have been appearing over the past year in a variety of commercial and consumer products.

Advanced solutions will not only take users from their CD out to the net, but will act as caches that seamlessly integrate Web browsing (and searching) with content on the CD. When the local copy is still current, no network access is needed. Pre-positioned images and video can be viewed at high speed. New or changed pages can be retrieved from the net, but even then, related images can be pulled from the local storage to speed access. Packaged software and tools for this are just beginning to emerge (from Netscape and Spyglass), and establishment of standards may be problematic.

Underlying these issues, as always, is a matter of money. Internet publishers have struggled with questions of site access or subscription fees, but have ignored the basic issue of network access costs. This is now getting more complicated. Publishers and marketers now look to reach beyond the early adopters, to the customers who resist paying for access, and are seeking ways to offer sponsored, "toll-free" service (Intuit, most prominently). Sponsored access brings major new opportunities, but adds serious concerns for communications cost that have previously been ignored. CD/Web combinations can minimize communications cost. Whoever pays, the critical factor is to offer a solution that is both valuable and cost-effective in its use of the available technology.

Advanced solutions are just starting to emerge, and they only scratch the surface of the issues in this evolving fabric. The details of these solutions are not simple, but the fundamental principles are. Electronic media technology is re-tracing the evolution of electronic data processing technology: the local systems of the sixties went "online" with a fanfare in the seventies, but it was soon realized that the real answer was in "distributed" systems that combined the features of both. This took on varied forms, with data staged and managed in hierarchies at the workstation, the departmental server, the regional hub, and the central mainframe. Similar distributed information storage hierarchies will evolve for media systems, and will include such emerging elements as CD/online hybrids, caching services (to provide efficiency for individual access), and data replication regimes (to provide efficiency for dispersed access).

As these solutions reach market, the first "killer application" may be cases of commercial Web site sponsors who put their site contents onto a CD-ROM (including links for live, current access) that they give or mail to their customers, prospects, or channel partners. When an information need, a Web site, and a physical distribution path exist already, the cost/value ratio of combined CD/Web solutions becomes especially attractive. Once this technology is prominently accepted and proven in such an arena, its spread could be very rapid.

Distributed media - it may be hard to capture in a catchy sound bite, but it is just the natural evolution of our infrastructure, following the basic principles of technical development, economics, and the market. With a little effort we can apply these principles to build powerful solutions that combine the Web with local media--"killer applications" that use the mix of tools required to meet a real need. Or, we can blithely hammer away with simplistic approaches, and then complain about the failures of technology.

___________

(*Interview, Alex S. Vieux, The Red Herring, November, 1995.)


Related references:


Contact Information

Richard R. Reisman, President, Teleshuttle Corporation
799 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
(212)-673-0225 fax: (212)-673-0226
e-mail: info@teleshuttle.com


1996, Teleshuttle Corp. All rights reserved


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Past Resources    Past Writings     Teleshuttle Past

The ghost of Teleshuttle past:  Pages retained for historical interest -- Not current, may have broken links


Copyright 2003 (or prior), Teleshuttle Corp. All rights reserved.