Multimedia business CD-ROMs. The term promises a little too much, conjuring up images of business information delivered with the pizzazz of your kids' favorite computer games. Don't get your hopes up: the multimedia-business-CD-ROM market is in its infancy. Below, Inc. takes a look at some of the titles in this fledgling category. All are for Windows only.
Multimedia MBA: Small Business Edition. From Richard D. Irwin and SoftKey International (800-227-5609), $79.95. This CD-ROM aims high. "Everything needed to achieve small business success on one CD-ROM," the cover crows. Textbook publisher Irwin has in fact crammed a lot of materials onto one CD -- and some of them are good. This CD-ROM's plus is that it allows you to search a number of business textbooks without buying them all or flipping through their indexes. But do you really want to scroll through page after page of academic text? Multimedia MBA tacks on a hodgepodge of resources like spreadsheet templates and an odd collection of video clips, too many of which feature Ben & Jerry's.
Business Library: Volume 1. From Allegro New Media (800-424-1992), $59.95; available in some CD-ROM "bundles." With this CD of 12 business books and three videos, Allegro does a good job of adapting the content to the CD-ROM format. The package might be better labeled "The Sales-and-Marketing Library," as that's where its resources are strongest. Search for a specialized market-research topic like the Census Bureau's TIGER (Topologically Integrated Geologic Encoding Reference) data and you'll find half a dozen entries, while a search for a finance term like private placement will yield only articles that coincidentally contain both words.
Government Giveaways for Entrepreneurs, Version 3.0. From InfoBusiness (801-221-1100), $39.95. Yikes! So much data -- in such an unappealing format! Click on the wrong icon and you may find yourself enmeshed in a description of a contract out for bid at the Agency for International Development -- or in a rambling essay by government- and self-promoter Matthew Lesko. Like the other CDs, this disk claimed it would be satisfied with a 486 computer with four megabytes of RAM, but on my thus-equipped machine it often crawled. Tech support was no help but was working on a solution.
Multimedia Business 500. From Allegro New Media, $49.95. This is a CD-ROM with potential. It's the contents of Hoover's Handbook of American Business, with a friendly interface similar to that of Business Library, its sister product. You can search profiles of America's largest corporations to see how many are, for example, involved in "database software." Or headquartered in your state. Or whatever. But multimedia? Not really: the tiny promotional videos about some companies, for example, add little value.