Adobe and Macromedia, Oh My!
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Dateline: April 25, 2001

It's finally happening the big boys are getting into the 3D for the Web game. In the last month publishing software giant Adobe, and authoring tool powerhouse Macromedia have both introduced major products for Web3D.

Adobe's Atmosphere (discussed in a prior article is going after the multiuser community market. On their side is long time cyber-guy Bruce Damer of Digital Space, who is well known and respected in the community. Bruce has been consulting in stealth mode for Adobe for over a year and has guided much of their thinking to date, a good omen.

Macromedia's strength is its formidable interactive media tools experience. Macromedia's Director, the Swiss Army Knife of multimedia, has long been the premier interactive multimedia authoring tool. More recently Macromedia's Flash has taken over the Web for vector based graphics effects. Now Macromedia brings forth Shockwave3D the 3D viewer (which included the Flash player) to view 3D content. 3D content is going to be produced using traditional 3D authoring tools such as 3ds max, or maya or any number of more specialized tools. Director version 8.5 will let you add interactivity to the 3D objects to complete the necessary functionality. According to Macromedia's press release they have partnered with "Alias|Wavefront, Discreet, Havok, MAXON, NewTek, NVIDIA, NxView Technologies, Inc., Right Hemisphere, and Softimage" to provide export functionality from the various tools. The creation of 3D geometry is a complex task and one usually best left to specialized tools. Macromedia's approach of partnering with these 3D tool vendor which then provide Shockwave 3D exporting capabilities makes a great deal of sense.

So how are these two companies going to make any money? Adobe has so far stated that they are going to give away the player and the multiuser server for free. They intend on giving away one version of the Atmosphere Builder authoring tool, for free as well. They will charge only for the "professional" version of the Builder software. The main difference between the free and "pro" versions of the Builder product will concern support for the product and the "pro" version will get bug fixes first. This strikes me as a bold and risky prospect. Adobe is counting of lots of people to form communities which will suck them into purchasing the "pro" version of the Builder. Of course it wouldn't surprise me if they have some other secret scheme up their sleeve also.

Macromedia's business model is very simple and straightforward. They want you to buy their authoring tools. Macromedia has had extraordinary success selling tools such as Director, Flash and Dreamweaver. The new 3D capable Shockwave player will simply be the next upgrade to the existing free Shockwave player. When you go to upgrade the player you will, unbeknownst to you, get a 3D renderer. If you want to create content you can export Shockwave 3D format from lots of partnered software and then polish it all up using Director 8.5. Clean simple and straightforward. Macromedia's Flash has proven that people are not averse to downloading plug-ins IF they get some perceived value.

One other important point to note about both Adobe and Macromedia. As authoring tool companies they have NOT ignored the Macintosh. Apple's Mac remains the computer of choice to the graphics design and artist communities. If you want to support the creation of good content you can't ignore this community and they don't. The full version of both these products will support the Mac.

All of this bodes quite well for the ever fledgling Web3D community, let's hope they both succeed!
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