How the Philips CD-i died a silent death: ‘The consumer was confused’


It came on the market in the early 1990s and should have been a great success: the CD-i player from Philips. A multimedia system with which you could really do everything. Watching movies, playing games, looking up information. It was not a great success. The device fell into obscurity. However, the almost complete CD-i collection is now on display at the HomeComputerMuseum in Helmond.

Jorg Kennis lets a stack of CD-i’s slide through his hands. There are hundreds of titles in the display case in the museum. Movies, games and a huge pile of professional information from hospitals and schools. “Things did not go well on the consumer market, but in that professional corner it did,” says Kennis. “They liked to develop software for this device in-house. It was simple to use, you didn’t need any technical knowledge.”

In the video, Jorg shows that the software for children was ahead of its time:

Consumers confused
But why then did the ‘compact disk interactive’ become such a flop? According to Kennis, this is due to two things. “It was the intention that Philips would market the CD-i together with Japanese manufacturers, but that did not entirely work out. Philips was actually on its own. But perhaps an even bigger problem was that you could use this CD-i. just too much was possible. The consumer was confused. ”

Because where other manufacturers opted for a clear direction with, for example, the development of game consoles, the CD-i hopped on several ideas. You could actually do anything with it. “Philips has not taken a clear direction with this development. It was the first true multimedia device. In fact, Philips was way ahead of its time.”

Rescue the landfill
Kennis collected almost the entire collection of available CD-i’s in ten years. There was a copy of most of the CD-i’s released at Philips in Eindhoven. After the development was stopped, Kennis managed to save it from the rubbish dump. Not only did he now physically own them, he also archived the collection on the internet as The New International CD-i Association.

The boxes in the attic, including the various players, can now be seen in the HomeComputerMuseum in Helmond. Much to the delight of owner Bart van den Akker. “With this permanent exhibition a piece of Dutch computer history has been safeguarded and made available to everyone”, says Van den Akker. And besides that, there was no better place.

First museum with this collection
“We are here in the Brainport region where CD-i naturally started and there are no museums that can show CD-i in this way.” As a lover of computers and history, he is very proud. “We are of course also a fully interactive museum, so all computers still work and you can use them. That also applies to the CD-i player.”

As a computer expert, Van den Akker also says that Philips may have made a mistake in putting the CD-i on the market. “Philips envisioned a completely different market. The computer became so big, along with the CD-ROM, that CD-i eventually died a silent death.”


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