...And One That's Simple And Cheap

Even if a multimedia computer looks like a TV, it's still not as simple to operate as pushing the "on" button. Also, MPC computers such as CompuAdd's start at about $2,600 and run as high as $5,000 -- much more than the $300 or so that consumers now pay for TV sets. Kits with CD-ROM drives and the electronics to upgrade ordinary PCs to multimedia status cost only about $ 1,000, but they can be hard to install. So MediaVision Inc. figures it has found itself a niche: "to make the multimedia concept noncomplicated and nonexpensive to the nontechnical person," says Paul Jian, chief executive officer of the Fremont (Calif.) company.

MediaVision has introduced CDPC, basically a CD-ROM drive with built-in stereo speakers. By including all the electronics to produce sophisticated sounds such as the human voice or high-fidelity music, CDPC eliminates the need to add a separate sound-producing card to an IBM-compatible PC. CDPC is also designed to have the sleek appearance of a high-end boom box rather than techie computer gear. It's expected to retail for less than $1,000 and will be available in such stores as Price Club and Circuit City.