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Apple Museum For-A-Day

Bandai Pippin Museum & Archive

Purpose of This Web Site

My reason for creating this museum and archive is to preserve a part of Apple Computer's legacy, much like my attempts with the Apple II and Macintosh series. Much of what you'll see here are basically data collected from the World Wide Web, but I've re-archived them so they're situated in a centralized area for easy access.

I hope you enjoy and make use of the museum and archive!


Museum & Archive Contents

Pippin Photo Archive   Contains photos of Pippins I've come across   12/07/2002
Hardware & Software Information   Overview of hardware and software information   12/07/2002
Pippin FAQ   Frequently asked questions about the Bandai Pippin   12/07/2002
Pippin Development   Software and hardware development information, including PDFs and visuals   12/07/2002

The Bandai Pippin @World

E3 and Other Adventures in Electronic Entertainment

This column first appeared in the May 21, 1996 issue of PC Graphics Report

Unfortunately, all Nintendo fed at the press conference was cheese and crackers, but I was determined to save my appetite for the Bandai Pippin @World announcement, being held that evening at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I wasn't disappointed by the spread, but I was somewhat disappointed by the Pippin, hailed by its manufacturers and designers as being the ultimate "Television Appliance" for surfing the Internet. Sheryl Crow performing live for a small group of us (1000 people) did make up for it (although I did lose out on a Sheryl Crow CD when I accidentally gave someone a free drink ticket which later turned out to actually be a CD redemption ticket).

The Pippin is an Apple developed technology, so it's no surprise that the guts of the Pippin are remarkably similar to those of a Macintosh. But not similar enough to allow straight Mac software to run as-is. After all, the Pippin (I call it a "MacJr") folks need to find a way to charge title developers a royalty to justify the low cost ($599) of the product, and they do this by licensing a custom Pippin API. So, the next question is why is Bandai introducing the Pippin, and not Apple. The answer appears to be two part:

  1. Bandai's parent company's claim to fame is ownership of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and as such, the company has extensive experience with channels alternate to those of traditiona computing devices.
  2. Bandai's Bandai Digital Entertainment group, which is marketing the Pippin, has received quite a chunk of funding to launch the Pippin, and my guess is that Apple is going to let them test the waters before shipping its own Pippin unit (which Apple committed to at its conference last week).

There are some features on the Pippin I think are good, like the fact it actually does enable consumer Web access via a television, has dual VGA and video output (NTSC or PAL), its keyboard/digitzer combo is pretty cool (the digitizer pad is above the keyboard, and the whole thing folds to make a thin black box), the "banana" controller appears pretty useful, they have some neat tools and games available for the unit, and they've kicked off a decent ad campaign in USA Today. For the latter, the first ad I saw had this simple message "Introducing a revolutionary new way to get at the Internet... It's called the television." With ads like this, they are helping promote the entire consumer Network Computer (NC) concept and not just their own device, which is a good thing for the industry, and probably not so good for Bandai.

Let's take a look at everything I don't like about the Bandai Pippin @World.

  • First, because it uses a "lite" MacOS core, people will have great expectations of what the Pippin should be able to do since it's really a mini-PC. The Bandai folks have agreed that changing this mind set is a real challenge.
  • Second, the Pippin's TV output, while surprisingly reasonable for Web pages, does a lousy job on regular OS text and Web browser menus because of the small fonts used there.
  • Third, the price point of $599 for a fall shipment is too high. Especially when you consider the game console Internet connections.
  • Fourth, the keyboard and controller currently require cables - no IR or RF cordless input devices are going to ship with Bandai's Pippin.
  • Fifth, Pippin forces people to use a specific Internet provider, PSInet, for at least 6 months, with a $25/month minimum service fee, which forces consumers who are already net literate to have multiple ISPs, probably shutting them out entirely of wanting to buy a Pippin with that constraint. That obviously leaves the remaining unwashed masses as potential Pippin purchasers, still a large number.
  • Sixth, the machine is currently incapable (due to not enough RAM) of running Netscape 2.0 or something comparable with Java and VRML support, putting its capabilities well behind the state of the art when it will ship in September.
  • Seventh, the name for the device ("Pippin @World") is silly. Many non-computer literate people don't know what an "@" is.
  • Eighth, (and most importantly) Bandai has not studied the extent to which Americans are functionally illiterate. According to a 1993 study by the U.S. Department of Education, approximately 46-51% of the adults resident in the U.S. are considered functionally illiterate. Astounding but true. What this all means is that while a Pippin could be used as an ultra-expensive (in relative terms) game console device by these folks, they aren't about to do any serious Internet surfing. When I brought this up to a Japanese executive with Bandai, he just could not understand that Americans might not be able to read. Talk about a cultural gap.

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