3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 49: VRML--Back From the Brink
Lesson 49 - VRML--Back From the Brink - Part 2
In June, Platinum bought Intervista, as already mentioned. As long as Cosmo Software was in operation, this acquisition, while notable, could hardly propel Platinum into a leadership position in the VRML world. But with the acquisition of Cosmo, Platinum is now in the driver's seat. There's a new big dog in the VRML community, and its influence is greater than even Cosmo's was because Platinum holds all the cards--and because it has rescued VRML from the brink of death.
To assess where Platinum may take VRML, I talked with Chris Marrin, one of the true giants on the VRML landscape. At Cosmo Software, Chris' title was "VRML Architect," and since the demise of Cosmo, he has set up shop at Sony as "Senior Architect." Few would pretend to rival Chris' knowledge of VRML, from both a technical and a business perspective.
In Chris' view, Platinum's "heart is in the right place." He thinks they are already doing a great job catching up with the significance of their responsibilities, and that this has been reflected in the announcements they've made thus far. However important business visualization may be to Platinum's particular strategy, the company is necessarily carrying the hopes and dreams of the large majority of VRML developers and enthusiasts whose main attention has been to the Internet. Chris claims that Platinum has announced the creation of an Internet division at the company, focusing on e-commerce, although I can't find this in the only press release I've been able to obtain. This information resonates, however, with an earlier press release concerning the release of Platinum's VRCreator VRML development tool that stresses e-commerce applications.
Chris feels that Platinum has assured the VRML public of its commitment to the existing open standard. With a single large company in charge, it would be easy to alter the specification for VRML browsers at will, but Platinum has at least signaled that it will uphold the standard. Platinum has also announced its intention to consolidate and streamline the product lines it has acquired, and this move is obvious enough. But what should it do? The company says that it intends to offer only a single VRML browser and to make it ubiquitous. This is perhaps the biggest advantage that the VRML world can gain from the new regime, as Platinum is in a position to combine its existing distribution channel through Microsoft with Cosmo Player's present inclusion in the Netscape Communicator download. As to the development tools, Platinum has announced its intention to offer both professional and entry-level products. Chris is concerned about pricing here. If prices are too low, or if some development software (perhaps PageFX) is offered for free, present and potential competition might dry up. My personal observation, however, is that most VRML development software has been unrealistically expensive thus far.
In short, Chris' take on the Platinum acquisition is positive and hopeful, although he stresses how inexperienced the company is in these new waters.
But Chris is himself moving into new waters with VRML.
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Created: Sept. 15, 1998
Revised: Sept. 15, 1998