Microsoft announces further details of Multimedia Systems software

Business Wire

May 6, 1991

REDMOND, Wash. -- Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) Monday announced details of its multimedia systems software products.

In particular, Microsoft publicly demonstrated, for the first time, how multimedia will directly add value to the Microsoft Windows graphical environment for the end user.

``We believe that the Multimedia PC will have a very dramatic impact on the personal computer community,'' said Rob Glaser, general manager of Microsoft's Multimedia Systems Group.

``Today's announcements and demonstrations show that Multimedia not only enables new content-rich applications, but also makes the end-user environment easier to use and more complete.''

As previously disclosed, Microsoft will deliver its multimedia systems software in two forms: a developers' kit, called the Multimedia Development Kit, and a set of operating systems extensions (which will generally be sold with multimedia hardware).

This software is formally called Microsoft Windows graphical environment 3.0 + Multimedia Extensions 1.0, and informally known as the Multimedia Windows environment.

Multimedia Windows, which was publicly demonstrated for the first time last November at the Microsoft Multimedia Developers' Conference, will be shipped as a final adaptation kit in June to hardware companies, who will in turn provide the systems software as part of their Multimedia PCs and Multimedia PC Upgrade Kits.

Multimedia PCs incorporate sound, animation, near-photo-quality imaging and the massive storage capability of CD-ROM, allowing them to run applications and titles that are more appealing and engaging than traditional PC applications. The first Multimedia PCs are expected to begin shipping this summer. HyperGuide Provides Extensive Online Help

The Multimedia Windows environment adds to the Windows graphical environment in three key areas: end user reference materials, multimedia accessories, and Control Panel applets.

HyperGuide, a CD-ROM-based user manual for the Multimedia Windows environment, provides extensive, easy-to-use information about both the Windows graphical environment and the multimedia extensions, including all applets and accessories.

Hypertext-based information retrieval techniques allow users to locate answers to their questions much faster than with print documentation.

HyperGuide is both more comprehensive and more visually oriented than standard online reference facilities. In fact, with more than 10 megabytes of data (encompassing more than 10,000 topics, 6,000 bitmaps and 20,000 hypertext-linked cross-references), HyperGuide is more like an online encyclopedia than a traditional help system.

Because of its comprehensiveness, only one pages of paper documentation).

``HyperGuide is unlike any previous online help facility,'' said Glaser. ``With its rich information, visual orientation, and sophisticated information-retrieval techniques, it's both quick and easy to use. In fact, it may be the only reference that most users need.'' New Applications Added to Accessories Group

The Multimedia Extensions add several new applications to the Windows Accessories group. These include:

-- Music box. Users can play and catalog audio CDs using an interface similar to that of standard audio CD players.

-- Sound recorder. With a microphone plugged into their PCs, users can make, edit and play their own sound effects (both voice and music).

-- Media player. Users can open and play media files, such as sound or animation files. Controls include Play, Stop, Forward and Reverse.

-- Alarm clock. Audible prompts help users keep track of time. Users can set different sounds for quarter, half and full hours, plus alarm. New and Enhanced Applets Added to Control Panel The Multimedia Extensions add several new applets to the Windows Control Panel including:

-- Display. Allows the user to switch between display modes more easily, making appropriate tradeoffs between color and spatial resolution.

-- MIDI mapper. Provides a method to remap instruments to the proper keys on synthesizers that are not General MIDI compatible, thus ensuring a device- independent way to play MIDI music.

-- Drivers. Users can easily add and change drivers for a variety of multimedia devices (for example, laser disc players, videotape players and video overlay boards).

-- Joystick. Supports installation and calibration.

-- Screen saver. Users can choose from a variety of screen saver patterns, including geometric designs and changing bitmap images.

In addition, the sound applet has been enhanced to let users assign a wide variety of sounds to system events, such as starting up the computer. Available sounds include bells, train whistles, music and recorded voice input. Multimedia Viewer and Author Toolkit Added to Developers' Kit

Microsoft also provided updated information on its Multimedia Development Kit. The kit, which is currently in the hands of more than 1200 beta users, is scheduled for release in final form this summer at a suggested retail price of $500.

In addition to the data preparation tools that are in the Beta release, Microsoft will also be adding two new items to the final Multimedia Development Kit: the Microsoft Multimedia Viewer Author Toolkit and Multimedia Viewer.

The Multimedia Viewer is a runtime module needed to play back titles prepared with the Multimedia ViewerAuthor Toolkit. It will be available for royalty-free distribution with Multimedia Viewer titles.

The Multimedia Viewer Author Toolkit lets developers create multimedia titles by enhancing traditional text-based titles with hypertext jumps, full text searching and multimedia elements (for example, sound and animation).

Built on Microsoft's Windows Help technology, the Multimedia Viewer is particularly appropriate for Multimedia authors developing text-intensive applications.

Authoring for Multimedia Viewer does not require any traditional programming, although custom routines can be tied in if the author desires.

Other items in the Multimedia Development Kit include C language APIs for accessing the multimedia extensions, and data preparation tools, used for preparing and converting multimedia files (such as image or sound files) into the proper format.

The Multimedia Viewer is one of many tools that developers can use in creating multimedia titles. More than 30 companies, including Asymetrix, Authorware, and Owl International, will provide additional development tools that can be used with the Multimedia Development Kit to build multimedia content applications. Multimedia Hardware Platform Builds on Existing PCs

The Multimedia PC hardware specification starts with today's basic PC technology and adds the special components needed for multimedia computing.

The minimum hardware configuration consists of a personal computer with an 80386, 80486, or fast (10 MHz or greater) 80286 processor; at least 2 MB of RAM; standard or enhanced VGA graphics; a digital audio subsystem; a 30MB hard disk; a CD-ROM drive; and joystick and MIDI ports.

Multimedia PCs will come with the Multimedia Windows environment or equivalent programming interfaces preinstalled.

Upgrade kits will also be available, allowing owners of existing PCs to convert their machines to Multimedia PCs. To be a candidate for the upgrade kit, an existing PC must meet the minimum processor and graphics requirements specified above.

Manufacturers will provide a range of Multimedia PCs configured to meet the needs of a wide variety of users, from home and education users to business users and developers. The minimum configuration described above is most appropriate for home and educational use.

Business users and developers will be able to purchase more powerful machines based on 80386 and 80486 processors, with more memory and larger hard disks.

The platform can also be extended to include a variety of multimedia peripherals. For example, home users might add videotape players or external MIDI devices, such as keyboards, while developers might add scanners, video capture boards, audio capture peripherals and CD-WORM drives. Major OEMs Show Solid Commitment to Multimedia Platform

Numerous OEMs have announced their intention to deliver integrated systems that meet or exceed the Multimedia PC hardware specification.

These include AT&T Computer Systems, CompuAdd, Fujitsu, NEC Technologies, Olivetti, Philips Consumer Electronics, Tandy and Zenith Data Systems. Collectively, these OEMs shipped more than 4 million personal computers in the last year, representing 25 percent of the worldwide PC market.

Many of the above manufacturers, and also Creative Labs, Headland Technology and Media Vision, have committed to deliver upgrade kits. At a minimum, these kits will include an audio subsystem, CD-ROM drive and the Multimedia Windows environment. Microsoft estimates that more than 15 million personal computers in the market today are capable of being easily upgraded to Multimedia PCs.

Microsoft Corp. develops, markets and supports a wide range of software for business and professional use, including operating systems, network products, languages and applications as well as books, CD-ROM products and hardware for the microcomputer marketplace.

Note to Editors: Microsoft and the Microsoft logo are registered trademarks and Windows is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation. Apple and Macintosh are registered trademarks of Apple Computer Inc.

CONTACT: Microsoft Corp., Redmond Brenda Hansen or Tanya van Dam, 206/882-8080

Copyright (c) 1991, Business Wire