RENTAL CALLED KEY TO CD-ROMS

DALLAS -- Rental is the key to further growth of the compact disc read-only memory market, said a speaker at the Video Software Dealers Association convention held here last month.CD-ROM penetration in the United States is now at about 12.2 million units, according to Jeff Allen, director of marketing at Entertainment Technologies of Colorado, Englewood, Colo. Additionally, by the end of next year,

DALLAS -- Rental is the key to further growth of the compact disc read-only memory market, said a speaker at the Video Software Dealers Association convention held here last month.

CD-ROM penetration in the United States is now at about 12.2 million units, according to Jeff Allen, director of marketing at Entertainment Technologies of Colorado, Englewood, Colo. Additionally, by the end of next year, 95% of all computers purchased by consumers will be equipped with CD-ROM decks, he said. "Even this year, you are going to be hard-pressed to find a computer that doesn't have a CD-ROM drive, a sound card and a set of speakers. People who are buying computers aren't going to have a choice. They are going to get CD-ROM and a sound card whether they like it or not," he said. Last year, for the first time, there were more computers sold in the United States than television sets, said Allen. "This is a major milestone. In my opinion, this is just the beginning," he said. But "the ability to try it before you buy it" will be the key to getting consumers to use all those CD-ROM units, he said. "Without rental, I think CD-ROM is probably going to be stuck somewhere near the [sales] range it is in right now." Video games, like "Donkey Kong Country," now sell millions of units, but for CD-ROM titles, "a half a million would be a tremendous sell-through figure," said Allen. "For CD-ROM software to get to that point, there has to be some way for customers to preview it and find out what is good and bad, just like they can do with Sega and Nintendo games." There are now over 10,000 CD-ROM titles available -- 1,500 were released in 1994's fourth quarter. "There are a lot of good titles, but there are a lot of bad titles too," he said. Another major obstacle to the acceptance of CD-ROM is the difficulty of installing and using certain titles, he said. But hardware and software changes will soon resolve that, he said.

95, the new version of Microsoft Windows about to be released, will take care of many software issues related to CD-ROM and "plug-and-play" hardware will help simplify things for end-users, he said.