3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 44: VRML - Life After Cosmo? webreference.com
Lesson 44 - VRML - Life After Cosmo? - Part 1
Cosmo Software is turning off the lights. And all of us who are interested in the future of VRML are worrying and wondering.
This turn of events is an undeniable disaster. Cosmo Software, a division of Silicon Graphics, has been the dominant commercial force in VRML. The Cosmo Player is, by far, the best VRML browser (the client-side program for viewing and interacting with VRML files). Cosmo Software has been actively improving the product and, what is more important, actively distributing it. They have been promoting VRML technology at a level, and with a zeal, that no other organization (business or otherwise) can pretend to match. This group of people has been devoted to their mission with messianic fervor. And now they, apparently, will be smoke.
We noted in a previous column that Silicon Graphics (SGI) was looking to sell Cosmo Software. Silicon Graphics is a huge company in very difficult straights. Its current, and seemingly desperate, restructuring plan entails the divestiture of all of its "non-core" businesses, and in this logic Cosmo was deemed superfluous, or at least expendable. Many weeks went by in a state of nervous uncertainty, and then, last week, it seemed that the sun broke through for Cosmo and for VRML. Silicon Graphics announced that a "letter of intent" had been signed to sell Cosmo to Sony.
The VRML public could have hardly imagined a more fortunate and positive turn of events. Cosmo, and therefore VRML technology, was being endorsed by a enormous international enterprise whose name is synonymous with consumer entertainment. All the hopes and hard work of VRML enthusiasts everywhere seemed suddenly legitimized by Sony's decision to acquire Cosmo. It was hard to feel better about VRML than most of us felt early last week.
Now it's hard to feel worse.
The Sony sale fell through. That was tough enough. But the next development stunned even those who thought themselves sophisticated in the vicissitudes of Silicon Valley and internet-era business.
Silicon Graphics simply decided to close down Cosmo Software. SGI spokesman John Thompson announced that the employees in the Cosmo division would be transferred to other parts of the company and that the unit would be closed down within the coming weeks. SGI would be evaluating further uses of Cosmo technology. The Cosmo Software website shut down on July 2. It was up again by the afternoon of July 6, but even the most experienced people on the Internet can not remember when a Fortune 500 company, with an enormous investment in its presence on the Web, has simply turned off a major Web site.
What are we to make of this?
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Created: July 7, 1998
Revised: July 7, 1998