Apple Computer Inc. announced here Tuesday an effort to expand the multimedia market with a device that purports to straddle the gap between the video game player and the personal computer.
The new device, called Pippin, is a trimmed-down Apple Macintosh computer: it will use a modified version of the Macintosh's Mac OS software and the new PowerPC microprocessor and will plug into a television set.
Initially, at least, Apple will not build the Pippin, but will license it freely to other electronics makers. The first licensee, named Tuesday, is Japanese toy manufacturer Bandai Co. Ltd., a major publisher of CD-ROM software and creator of the "Power Rangers" action toys.
Bandai's Power Player version will sell for about $500 when it is introduced in stores worldwide late next year, Bandai President Makato Yamashina said. Bandai also is to design Pippin-compatible software for educational, entertainment and information purposes.
At the simplest level the Pippin will serve as a video game machine or player of CD-ROM videos and music, but it will be possible to upgrade it by adding a keyboard, floppy or hard disk drive, modem and additional software. With the additions it would be capable of word-processing or communications functions.
Bandai is aiming for annual sales of at least 500,000 machines, Yamashina said. The Power Player will compete with powerful new game machines from Sega Enterprises Ltd., Sony Corp. and 3DO at one end of the scale, and with personal computers with CD-ROM drives at the other end.
Satjiv Chahil, vice president of Apple's New Media Group, predicted the Pippin will be the forerunner of multimedia equipment capable of bringing text, video and audio into millions of households that have held back from buying personal computers because of their cost or complexity.
"This technology has been restricted so far to people who are familiar with the personal computer," Chahil said, "(but) when you introduce a product like this, it is totally unintimidating. You attach it to your TV the same way you attach your VCR, and all of a sudden, you're in the world of multimedia and the computer--but you don't know it. It's easier to use than your VCR. There are a few buttons, which (let) you navigate."