3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 83: 3D E-Commerce With MetaStream
Lesson 83 - 3D E-Commerce With MetaStream - Part 1
How hot is Web 3D?
I received a piece of email from MetaCreations the other day. MetaCreations is a very interesting and imaginative company that has been marketing a wide range of graphics software, and has grown quite quickly by acquiring interesting products to add to its line. It's main 2D graphics products, Kai Powers Tools and Painter, have long had professional status. On the 3D side, MetaCreations has collected many of the hobbiest packages--Ray Dream Studio, Infini-D, Bryce and Poser--most of which are remarakably powerful and impressive for their price. Most recently, the company has added a new high-end 3D package named Carrara, apparently intended to break into the professional tier. I haven't seen this program, but knowing MetaCreations, I suspect it's pretty strong. All in all, MetaCreations has built up a respected and aggressively marketed stable of graphics products.
But back to the email. The message said that MetaCreations would be seeking a company to buy their entire product line. The new strategic focus of the company was declared to be 3D visualization for e-commerce on the Internet, and the graphics products are apparently viewed as a distraction from this focus. The new push is centered around MetaCreations' MetaStream technology for Web 3D, and to that end, the company has joined with the giant Computer Associates to create MetaStream.com Corporation as its business vehicle. This is all, of course, part of the trend throughout corporate America to structure assets in dot.com subsidiaries that focus investor attention on Web-related initiatives so as to attract the same kind of stock market valuations that Internet start-ups are enjoying. But it's one thing to simply highlight the Web-related aspects of a business, and a completely different thing to abandon all non-Internet aspects as non-strategic. That's the kind of belief in the future of the Web 3D technologies that really grabs your attention.
For those of us who sense the significance the recent trends that are bringing 3D graphics to the Internet, this is powerful and confirming news, and MetaCreations efforts merit some serious attention, both from a technological and business perspective.
To start from the business side, the new MetaStream.com Corporation has attracted some important business alliances. I've already mentioned the involvement of Computer Associates (as a 20 percent shareholder), but this is even more significant than the mere financial support of a large technology player. Readers of the last couple of columns on the story of VRML may remember how the Cosmo Software product line ended up in the hands of this very same Computer Associates. This was rather accidental, the outcome of CA's acquisition of the failing Platinum Technologies. It's doubtful that Computer Associates was much aware of the Cosmo assets when they bought the large business software firm. Many have hoped that, given the absence of any connection between CA's business software focus and the Cosmo Software VRML tools, CA might be persuaded to give up the outstanding Cosmo Worlds to the public domain and release the source code of Cosmo Player for the good of the VRML world.
But Computer Associates has not done so, and it now appears that the reason may be more than mere negligence or corporate cussedness. CA apparently believes very much in the future of Web 3D, and certainly has no interest in encouraging technologies (such as VRML) that compete with MetaStream. This attitude, while discouraging to the VRML-based community, is actually bullish for Web 3D generally because it indicates that a major corporate player believes in the future of 3D on the Internet.
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Created: Jan. 5, 2000
Revised: Jan. 5, 2000