Inside Multimedia...

Inside Multimedia has been called many things, some of them unprintable. It can best be described as the devil's bible of the multimedia industry. Certainly there is more than a reek of sulphur from the vitriolic pen of its editor and publisher, John Barker.

This insider newsletter is now entering its tenth year of publication and has become required reading' for most of the movers and shakers in the interactive media field. They complain bitterly if they are mentioned, they complain even more bitterly if they are not mentioned. But Inside Multimedia is more than a Private Eye of the industry. It indulges in some fairly trenchant analysis on where the industry is heading. Sometimes it hits the button and sometimes it gets it wildly wrong. Whatever, the result is usually a lively read. Here is a sample from the November 94 issue. Sample copies are available from John Barker on (snailphone +44 332 881779).

Chicago, my home town

I just loved the cute remark made by Jeffrey Dearth of New Republic about commercialising the Internet:

'A couple of years ago people used to ask me how to make a small fortune in publishing. Now they ask me how they can make a small fortune on the Internet. My answer is always the same: ‘Start with a large fortune’. It's a great line, and a cheap shot. It reinforces a belief held by lots of people that making money and publishing on the Internet are contradictions in terms. Well, crushing trees and smearing ink on them must have seemed like a pretty crazy idea too.

It requires an effort of the imagination to see far into the future, like August 1995, for example. Twenty five million people all receiving their copy of Windows 95 on the same day. They re-boot their computer and what do they find? Hey, here's an Internet connection already built in. Cool, man. When the world's phone system (and the Internet) has recovered from the shock of being jammed by 25m amateurs fumbling on the Net we will take stock. We will realise, too late perhaps, that a new world order has begun. And Bill Gates will be un-elected President of it.

The idea of building the Internet hooks into Windows 95 is not particularly new. Already Apple's System 7.5 and IBM's Warp do just that. As well as investing heavily themselves, Microsoft are forming partnerships with telephone companies, publishers and entertainment groups to create a broad range of on-line services.

Think about this for a minute. Can you now tell me, hand on heart, that nobody is going to make serious money on the Internet? Remember what I said a few issues back. If you are not on the Internet you are not going to be around by the end of the decade.

What future is there for traditional banking when you can log on, go through some serious security barrier, then manipulate your money on the screen? What future is there for traditional software distribution when you can log on, download some demo software, like it, pay for it with plastic money, then have it downloaded to your PC?

The Microsoft approach is but one small part of the bigger picture. But is an infinitely important part because it will appeal in its simplicity to the typical unwashed Windows users who will be diffident about venturing into the Wild West territory of the Greater Internet. The other thing is that it will attract the Marks and Spencer's of the electronic world, and the rest will follow.

Fact is, retailers like ghettos: think of Savill Row. I was particularly struck by this on my visit to Tokyo. In the middle of the city I stumbled on a whole city block devoted to shops selling ski accessories. In the middle of Tokyo; shop after shop, all selling ski clothes and equipment! Astonishing. And so it will be on the Net.

Imagine the impact on the computer magazines. Feel the weight of Computer Shopper. Imagine how many trees have to be cut down every month. Page after page of ads for almost identical PCs, printed in four colours on glossy paper. All paid for at incredible cost. And all out of date by at least four weeks (by definition).

Now imagine that ghetto in the new electronic age. No ruptured postman, no trees to fell. You search for '486DX' or 'laser printers' and you are assailed with not hundreds but thousands of amazing offers'. Better still you get crisp, clean colour pictures, and there's no need for a magnifying glass to read tiny type. You can even click on a detail and get even more detail, the technical spec for example. If you narrowed your search to a geographical region, UK mainland, for example, then you get only a few hundred bargains. If you didn't then the world is your oyster because the world is on the Net.

The implications are awesome. Artificial barriers on speed of innovation are ripped away. Take an example. Some guy somewhere in the world invents a faster, cheaper, better modem. He has the means, suddenly, to tell the world about it. The world beats a path to his door. His only problem is how to manufacture them to meet the world demand and what to do with his unsold stocks when sales dry up overnight because someone's invented an even faster, cheaper better modem!

Take another example, closer to home. Imagine you are a multimedia developer. You need some video footage or some code to do a particular job. You know that someone, somewhere has that footage or has already developed that code but can't be bothered to search the world and go through the copyright hassles. So you re-invent the wheel and commission the work. Not anymore you don't. Your first impulse is to simply hop on the Net and search vast on-line libraries of copyright-cleared material till you find the stuff you want. You pay for it. It is downloaded to your PC. The ramifications of all this are mind boggling. We should all start thinking about this NOW.

John Barker, editor 'Inside Multimedia'