The Bandai Pippin and Wireless Controller
|Type||Multimedia player platform for video game console, Internet appliance and interactive kiosk development|
|Related articles||Apple Interactive Television Box|
The Apple Pippin is a defunct open multimedia technology platform, designed by Apple Computer, and marketed as PiPP!N. According to Apple, Pippin was directed at the home market as "an integral part of the consumer audiovisual, stereo, and television environment."
Pippin is based on the Apple Macintosh platform, including the classic Mac OS architecture. Apple built a demonstration device based on Pippin called "Pippin Power Player," and used it to demonstrate the platform at trade shows and to the media, in order to attract potential software developers and hardware manufacturers. Apple licensed the Pippin technology to third-party companies. Bandai Company Ltd. developed the ATMARK and @WORLD models, and focused them on the gaming and entertainment business in Japan and the United States. Katz Media developed the KMP 2000, and focused it on vertical markets throughout Europe and Canada.
The Apple Pippin platform was named for the Newtown Pippin, an apple cultivar, a smaller and more tart relative of the McIntosh apple (which is the namesake of the Macintosh). According to Apple, it intended for Pippin to be more than just a platform for game consoles. "Apple believes that over time Pippin will take many forms, including home telecommunication devices and much more. Apple did not want to choose a name that would be specific for a certain market space, as it will certainly appeal to many types of consumers and be shipped in a variety of forms from many manufacturers."
The word "pippin" was used by Apple prior to the Apple Pippin platform. The Apple ProFile, an external hard disk drive for the Apple III and Apple Lisa, used the code name "Pippin" during development.
Apple never intended to release Pippin on its own. Apple intended to make the Pippin platform an open standard by licensing the technology to third parties, much like how JVC shared the VHS format in the 1970s. Relying on third-party companies to produce Pippin systems was a way to increase Macintosh's market share – a goal identical to Apple's clone attempt in the late 1990s. It even encouraged differentiation between systems, in order to encourage competition – as long as the systems stuck to Apple's reference design to avoid fragmentation. The licensees could improve their systems by improving industrial design, integrating telephony, improving video and audio capabilities, increasing memory capacity, and more.
Bandai and Apple
In 1993, Bandai wanted to deliver a scaled-down version of the Macintosh purely for CD-ROM game-playing. Bandai President and CEO Makoto Yamashina chose the Macintosh platform over other platforms available at the time.
In early 1994, Bandai approached Apple with the gaming console idea. The original design was based on a Macintosh Classic II 16 MHz Motorola 68030 running Macintosh system software. Apple's involvement would be to define the initial logic board design, and Bandai would provide the casing and packaging. This was considered the fastest delivery solution to market at a very reasonable return on investment for both Apple and Bandai.
Originally, Bandai never intended to develop a system with Internet connectivity in mind. However, Apple and Bandai received feedback from customers, indicating that they were looking for a system that could connect to the Internet. To make Internet connectivity possible, Apple had to incorporate a modem into the Pippin design. Two years earlier (1992), Apple had already moved away from the older serial interface with an external Hayes-compatible modem on its Macintosh systems, and switched to a serial interface which included GeoPort – a serial data technology that allowed software to emulate a modem. Implementing GeoPort into the Pippin platform required Apple to make a major change in its design – moving away from the 68030 footprint and to a PowerPC footprint. Apple chose the PowerPC 603 32-bit processor, as it was designed to be a low-cost, low-end processor for embedded use.
On December 13, 1994, Apple announced the Pippin platform in Tokyo, as well as the partnership with Bandai. In March 1996, the white-colored Bandai Pippin ATMARK (ピピンアットマーク, Pipin Attomāku) went on sale in Japan at a price of 64,800 yen, which included a dial-up modem and four bundled titles. Yamashina predicted 200,000 Pippin ATMARK systems would be sold in Japan within the first twelve months.
In October 1995, the Nikkei reported that Mitsubishi Electric Corporation would follow Bandai as a licensee to the Pippin technology. Although Mitsubishi didn't actually sign a license agreement with Apple, it did manufacture the systems for Bandai (and effectively, Katz Media) on an original equipment manufacturer basis.
Bandai originally planned to launch the Pippin in 1995, but the release was later pushed back to March 1996 for Japan and June 1996 for the US.
The black-colored Bandai Pippin @WORLD (pronounced at-world) went on sale in the United States in June 1996 at a price of US$599.00. The @WORLD bundle included a six-month unlimited Internet account from PSINet at a cost of US$24.95 per month. Bandai predicted 200,000 Pippin @WORLD systems would be sold in Japan in its first twelve months, and 300,000 systems sold in the US within twelve months of being released there.
By 1997, the Bandai @WORLD was extremely unpopular in the United States. Bandai cancelled production of the Pippin during its merger discussions with Sega in early 1997, and after the merger was cancelled, began rethinking its marketing strategy for the Pippin. This led to a short-lived, last ditch attempt to market the Pippin as an all-in-one set-top box, but this approach failed. Bandai pulled the @WORLD out of the American market, and shipped the unsold units back to Japan. The black-colored units were re-branded ATMARK (without the ATMARK labeling on the front) and sold in the Japanese market.
Katz Media Player 2000
On June 4, 1996, Katz Media, based in Norway, became the second (and last) company to sign a license agreement with Apple to produce Pippin systems. While Bandai was targeting the Japan and United States markets, Katz Media focused on Europe and Canada. Because Katz Media was a media software-only company, it signed an agreement with Bandai so that Bandai would produce the hardware as an OEM for Katz Media.
Katz Media originally intended to produce two configurations of the Pippin: one as a basic multimedia system for running CD-ROM titles, and a higher-end system supporting Internet access. The goal was to start shipping Pippin units in November 1996, but Katz Media didn't actually start shipping their products until March 1997; it ended up producing only one model of the Pippin – the Katz Media Player 2000 (KMP 2000). The KMP 2000 was available in two configurations: with or without an external 50-pin SCSI interface on the back of the unit.
To develop content, Katz Media worked with a variety of multimedia developers and publishers to "Pippinize" their existing CD-ROM titles and make them available for the Pippin.
Katz Media never sold the KMP 2000 in the retail market. Instead, it attempted to use the system as a set-top box for a television set or VGA display, to be distributed to its partners' respective client bases in order to interface with a variety of vertically marketed interests, such as catalogs, databases, Internet content, and so on. As a result, the KMP 2000 is the rarest of the Pippin systems, and is extremely difficult to find in today's used market.
Katz Media signed a number of agreements with companies across Europe and Canada. One agreement was to publish CD-ROM-based catalogs for Redwall Retail Stores, and use the Pippin as an interactive kiosk that would be set up in stores running the CD-ROMs. Katz Media also attempted to push the KMP 2000 into Canada – a country where, in May 1997, only 20 percent of its citizens had access to the Internet. The idea was to use the country's existing cable network to bring in Internet access, and the KMP 2000 was to be used as an Internet appliance that would be issued to subscribers. A hotel chain in Europe signed a deal with Katz Media to use the KMP 2000 in hotel rooms, so that guests could access the Internet. Katz Media then signed with a hospital in France, using the KMP 2000 as an online system so that, as a team, physicians could pull up and review case studies, and collaborate on diagnoses and treatments. On June 16, 1997, the Netface Consortium in the Netherlands selected the KMP 2000 as the device to be used as a part of what the company called "the world's first Internet shopping mall." CAI-Westland owned a two-way cable system with 55,000 subscribers, and the KMP 2000 was to be given to the subscribers as a device to shop for products from a consortium of 23 companies.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he stopped all Macintosh clone efforts, which shut down the Apple Pippin concept. Once Apple stopped all development of the Pippin platform, it affected all parties. Bandai stopped production of all models of Pippin by mid-1997. Katz Media, who was receiving its systems from Bandai, vowed to continue supporting Pippin in a PR notice released June 25, 1997. Katz Media reportedly had some 100,000 units committed because of written agreements with companies spanning twenty countries. The company would eventually file for bankruptcy by the end of 1998. On February 27, 1998, DayStar Digital purchased all remaining inventory of hardware from Bandai, and sold the inventory to anyone who would buy them. A former employee of DayStar placed sales of the Pippin through its distribution chain as high as 2,000 systems.
Bandai continued to support its consoles until December 31, 2002.
To encourage software developers to create content for the Pippin platform, Apple attempted to sell the platform as being scalable, in that applications written for, example, the ATMARK or @WORLD would work in future models of Pippin. In Apple's Q&A document, Apple contrasted its scalability with the Nintendo system, where the "Nintendo 8-bit NES cartridges don't work on the 16-bit SNES." The CD-ROMs do not contain region protection, so that titles made for the ATMARK would also run on the @WORLD. Apple also promised the developers that, "Apple has no intention or desire to enter the business of regulating an industry which should be encouraged to exercise freedoms needed by the creative artists which Apple wants to evangelize onto the platform. Apple will abide by whatever ratings systems are regulated by governments. Apple, where reasonable, will endorse those systems which reduce excessive oversight and permit the freedom to the artists." An example of this is the Yellows series by Akira Gomi; originally a book displaying nude Japanese women, it was converted to an electronic database.
To develop Pippin applications, developers had to become Apple registered developers, so that they could receive the developer kits, as well as receive discounts on equipment required for Pippin development, such as the Power Macintosh AV system. At the May 1995 World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC), details were made available to potential developers. Bandai also issued a "Pippin Security Key" in the Pippin hardware development kit, which when inserted into the AppleJack ADB port allowed an off-the-shelf Pippin system to bypass the authentication system when running non-authenticated CD-ROMs.
Network Computer Platform
On May 21, 1996, Oracle Corporation, along with 30 hardware and software vendors, announced an intent to build computers that are designed around the network computer platform. The idea was to design technology based on a profile that included diskless computers, commonly coded applications using languages such as Java, and interface with the Internet using common software such as Netscape Navigator. In May 1996, Apple became a partner in the network computing effort, and used the Apple Pippin platform as its implementation. Katz Media attempted to use the network computer platform concept as a way to push the Pippin into vertical markets. Although the Apple iMac (1998) is popularly known for the disappearance of the floppy disk, the Apple Pippin platform was about two years ahead of the iMac in this effort.
The Apple Pippin platform was based on the PowerPC Platform, a platform designed and supported by IBM and Apple. The PowerPC 603 processor is based on RISC design, thereby allowing peripherals to rely on the Pippin CPU. For example, instead of relying on a fully featured analog modem, the Pippin has a GeoPort serial port. Various dialup Internet service providers (ISP)—including Prodigy, America On-Line, and eWorld—were supported by the Pippin platform, as well as generic ISPs.
The address bus of the PowerPC 603 can theoretically access memory up to 64 MB. However, the operating system's maximum addressable memory size is 37 MB. Furthermore, because of the ASIC design of the Pippin hardware, the maximum RAM size that can be added is 32 MB. Officially, Bandai produced memory upgrade modules of 2, 4, 8 and 16 MB. The memory chips are soldered onto a printed circuit board which is placed in a plastic housing, making installation into a Pippin system simple for the end user. Japanese hackers produced an aftermarket 16 MB module, but because the module was much larger than the memory module compartment on the Pippin, installation required removing the logic board from the chassis, and then mounting the large memory module in-between the logic board and chassis.
Apple encouraged hardware developers to produce PCI compatible peripherals that could be added to the Pippin. The only official method of producing add-ons for the Pippin was by developing PCI-compatible devices, and then placed in a docking station cabinet. A proprietary riser card interface (referred to by Apple as an X-PCI slot) is located on the bottom of a Pippin system, and is used by docking stations. A docking station for a Pippin can contain a variety of hardware, such as SCSI or floppy disk drive controllers, video interfaces, codecs, or network interfaces such as Ethernet. The logic board passes PCI signals through the X-PCI docking interface, and then to the docking station. Docking stations within the Pippin line do not provide pass-through support, thereby limiting a Pippin system to use only one docking station at one time. For example, a docking station for a floppy disk drive would need to be removed in order to attach a docking station for the magneto optical drive. Katz Media produced a generic docking station, containing a PCI slot, allowing a user to install PCI cards. No PCI-based peripherals were ever developed specifically for the Pippin.
As Bandai specifically marketed its Pippin models as game consoles, many of the titles produced are games and entertainment software or edutainment software. However, unlike conventional gaming consoles, the Pippin has no dedicated graphics or sound processors. Because the Pippin platform is based on Macintosh system software, graphic services such as 2D and 3D QuickDraw are made available to developers. Early on, Apple encouraged hardware developers to produce 3D rendering hardware so that the RISC processor could be free to tend to other processing. MPEG codec is not supported by the system software, as QuickTime is the only video format supported by the platform.
The operating system is not located in the Pippin's onboard storage, and is instead located on the CD-ROMs for each of the Pippin's software releases. Apple could thus upgrade the operating system without having to sell new hardware to the consumer. However, because of this, once Pippin software releases ended, it became impossible to upgrade to a later operating system, or install extensions and such. The system automatically reboots whenever the CD-ROM eject button is pushed, so a user can not load the system software off one CD-ROM, and then insert another CD-ROM. Apple intended for the Pippin platform to be an appliance, and encouraged consumers to purchase a fully featured Macintosh system if they were looking for something upgradable. Bandai never upgraded its system software beyond the 7.5.2 version. Hardware enthusiasts have been able to run system software as late as Mac OS 8.0, but this can only be done on a system utilizing a developer ROM-BIOS.
On a typical PowerPC-based Macintosh system, the boot process includes loading a bootstrap loader from ROM, loading the Process Manager stored in the boot blocks of the startup device, locating a "blessed" System Folder on the startup device, and then loading Finder. However, because the Pippin platform ran only on non-writable CD-ROM, a modification to the boot process had to be made. For developers who were using standard 7.5.2 system software, a "PippinFinder" was installed into the System Folder, allowing the CD-ROM to be bootable on a Pippin-based system. Once development was finalized, PippinFinder was removed from the System Folder, and the Pippin-specific system software was placed onto the build. In addition, an alias of the main executable was placed into the Startup Items folder, so that upon bootup, the application will launch automatically. Developers are constrained to the base hardware profile of the Pippin platform, using no hard drive cache for downloaded content, and sharing 128 KB of NVRAM with the system.
The standard Finder interface was replaced with a simpler interface called "Pippin Launch." In Finder, the interface was based on folders and files. In Pippin Launch, the icons are clickable squares, and the user did not have access to standard Finder features, such as "New Folder."
Among developers, "Pippinized" is a reference to creating CD-ROM titles designed to boot on a Pippin device. The system and application software is prepared on the external hard disk drive, and with the use of a dongle available only to developers, is tested by booting off the hard disk drive on the Pippin system. After the CD-R is made, the disc had to be sent out to an authorized CD stamping house to be authenticated. RSA's public/private key system was used to create the authentication system on the Pippin platform.
Other than the RSA authentication and modified system files, according to Apple, "Yes, Pippin titles will play on Macintosh computers. If the titles are 68k based they will play on both Power Macintosh and 68k based Macintosh computers. If the titles are written in native PowerPC code they might also play on both platforms depending upon whether or not the developer chose to code in fat binaries or not."
Once Bandai licensed Pippin from Apple, Apple made no effort to market the Pippin platform. All the marketing was to be done by the licensees. Bandai spent US$93 million in marketing alone to sell the Pippin line. As part of the licensing agreement, both Bandai and Katz Media were not allowed to use the term "computer" when marketing the Pippin systems, so that the systems would not be confused with Apple's own Macintosh product line.
By the time the Pippin systems were released, the market was already dominated by the Sega Saturn, Sony PlayStation, and the mostly Windows-based PC. In addition, although Apple made efforts to sign on software developers, there was little ready-to-use software for Pippin, the only major publisher being Bandai itself. The system's third party developers consisted solely of small software houses. At a price of US$599 on launch, it was considered too expensive.
In May 1996, PC Graphics Report interviewed a Japanese executive associated with Bandai. According to the article that documented the interview, attempting to market a gaming console as a computer was a sign of lack of cultural research on the part of the Japan-based Bandai. In particular, computer illiterate people did not know what an "@" sign was, as in @WORLD. Consumers in America could not grasp the idea of surfing the Internet using such a device. The executive could not understand how Americans might not be interested in surfing the Internet. Even among internet surfers, the Apple Pippin was not necessarily the console of choice. A July 1996 article in Electronic Gaming Monthly pointed out that the competing Sega Saturn and its separately sold Netlink device combined still cost under $400, making it a far less expensive internet option than the Pippin. And, any device that wasn't simple to use would be a failure in the U.S. market.
The same article also mentioned other problems with the Pippin platform and marketing strategies. The default memory configuration is too small to run the Netscape 2.0 browser, or anything comparable to Java and VRML support. The rendering of text on a TV screen makes reading difficult, since at the time the composite video output was the more commonly available connection to television sets. The US$599 price was too high, especially during late 1996 when the Bandai Pippin was originally released.
Apple intended to grow the Pippin platform alongside the rest of the Macintosh line. In an Apple developer publication, Apple's CEO Gil Amelio announced the Pippin 1997 Reference Platform, and suggested that the platform would include the latest Macintosh technologies, including IEEE 1394 or FireWire, as well as a 25-pin external SCSI port as standard interfaces. In May 1997, Bandai announced a docking station that would include Ethernet support at US$139.00, although such a peripheral was never made available.
In 1997, Bandai developed two prototype units, and displayed them at the MACWORLD Expo/Tokyo '97 event. The Bandai ATMARK-PD was designed as a direct replacement of the original ATMARK footprint, and would have included an internal drive that can read a standard CD-ROM disc, as well as read/write to a magneto optical WORM PD disk with 600 MB of storage capacity.
The Bandai ATMARK-EX was to feature a footprint similar to a Macintosh desktop unit. It was designed to include 8 MB of RAM (expandable to 40 MB,) and the ability to utilize standard 72-pin EDO-DRAM modules, instead of the proprietary memory modules used in the ATMARK and @WORLD. The chassis could handle a half-sized PCI card internally. The displayed unit contained a PCI card-based Ethernet interface, as well as a built-in analog modem. An infrared-based ADB interface was also designed into the prototype, which would have opened up a new line of peripherals.
According to Apple, what would be included in a Pippin-based product was specific to each manufacturer. Other than the color, the specifications on the Bandai releases were the same across both the ATMARK and @WORLD packages, while the Katz Media release addressed features needed to be scalable, including an external SCSI interface, additional on-board memory, and the lack of RSA technology.
|System||Bandai Pippin ATMARK||Bandai Pippin @WORLD||Katz Media Pippin KMP 2000|
|Model number||PA-82001||PW-10001||KMP 2000|
|Introduction||March 1996||October 1996||March 17, 1997|
|Processor||66 MHz PowerPC 603 RISC microprocessor|
|On-board memory||6 MB combined system and video memory||8 MB combined system and video memory|
|Memory upgrades||RAM is upgradable in 2, 4, 8 and 16 MB increments|
|NVRAM||128 KB NVRAM accessible storage space.|
|Video Output||VGA, S-video, RCA composite video (NTSC/PAL switchable), with 640x480 resolution, 8-bit and 16-bit color.|
|Audio In/Out||RCA composite left/right stereo, 16-bit 44 kHz sampled, and headphone output jack|
|Expansion||PCI expansion slot||PCI, and optionally external 50-pin Centronics SCSI interface|
|Input/Output||Two "AppleJack" ruggedized ADB inputs (P-ADB); Two high-speed serial ports; modem port is GeoPort ready|
|Power supply||Internal universal switching power supply, 100 v 25 w 50/60 Hz 0.5 A||Internal universal switching power supply, 100–240 v 25 w 50/60 Hz 0.5 A|
|Notes||1996 - White; 1997 - Black||All units were black||Available with or without external SCSI|
|Version||KINKA Developer||KINKA Pre-release||KINKA 1.0||KINKA 1.2||KINKA 1.3|
|Chip labeling||16 flash ROM chips||341S0241 thru 245, 247, 248, 250||341S0251 thru 254||341S0297 thru 300||341S0328 thru 331|
|Support Zip 100||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Support MO 230||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Support PCI expansion adapter||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Notes||Programmable; unstable||Only 500 parts were shipped||Common ROM-BIOS (JP)||Common ROM-BIOS (US)||Authentication disabled|
(*) Hard drive is supported by the Pre-Release ROM-BIOS, but only if a Zip 100 is detected as part of the SCSI chain.
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Standard equipment in every Apple Pippin package includes a dial-up analog modem (earlier packages included a 14.4 kbit/s modem (PA-82010 or PA-82007), while later packages included a 33.6 kbit/s modem (PA-82017/BDE-82017)) over a GeoPort interface, and one corded AppleJack game pad.
Originally, expansion of the Pippin was to be by way of the docking station. Apple was looking forward to third-party manufacturers producing add-on products, such as PCMCIA slots, MPEG-2 codecs, among others. Some add-ons were made available by Bandai and other third-party manufacturers, and included:
- Docking station with a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive (PA-82002);
- Deltis 230 MO Docking Turbo (MOS330P), with a 230 MB magneto-optical disk drive, manufactured by Olympus Optical Co. Ltd. (requires KINKA 1.2 or later);
- AppleJack wireless controller/game pad (PA-82014/BDE-82014);
- Keyboard/drawing pad/stylus combination through the AppleJack ADB interface (PA-82003).
Note that earlier releases of the Bandai Pippin ATMARK could not use the 230MB MO drive; later models had this support added. Bandai nor Apple sold the ROM-BIOS upgrades as a finished good.
Other peripherals not designed specifically for the Pippin line can also be used without modification of the hardware or operating system:
- Apple Color StyleWriter 1500 and 2500 series through its serial port;
- External SCSI hard disk drive (requires external SCSI interface;)
- Iomega Zip 100 SCSI external drive (requires external SCSI interface.)
Standard Apple-made ADB devices, such as the Apple Keyboard line, and the Apple Desktop Bus mouse, can be used on a Pippin by way of an ADB-to-AppleJack adapter. AppleJack devices can be used on an ADB-based Macintosh by creating a home-made AppleJack-to-ADB adapter (PA-82005/BDE-8005), which didn't exist as a finished good. Some devices, such as the AppleJack game pad (PA-82004), require extensions for the Macintosh system software.
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The Pippin has never taken off in the U.S. as hoped - some analysts suggest it has reached only 20 percent of its sales target in its second year of release.
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At the moment, the only official developers are small software houses with previous Mac market experience. The game giants are conspicuous by their absence.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Apple Pippin.|
- Most complete database of pictures of Pippin Hardware and Games
- Apple's original Pippin site
- Bandai Pippin Museum & Archive, including PDF Technical Notes
- Pippin screenshots
- The Computer Chronicles' coverage of CES 1996, including Apple's demonstration of the Pippin
- Gil Amelio's gold-finish Pippin at the Computer History Museum