3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 85: Superscape Reborn in Web 3D | 2
Lesson 85 - Superscape Reborn in Web 3D - Part 2
My talk with Paul Beardow, Vice President of Research, was pleasant and informative. Paul is the kind of urbane and sophisticated gentleman that Americans love to find in a Brit. The first and most important point that surfaced was Superscape's decision to keep its technology in-house, as least for the present. In other words, companies that want to use the new SeV for Web 3D must let Superscape do the work itself. This is in contrast with MetaCreations, which is presently focused on selling content development services, but also is making its MetaStreams technology available to other developers. Paul stressed that companies seeking to do their own development using SeV are invited to "talk to us" about partnership arrangements, but noted that keeping their technology in their own hands was a central element of their corporate strategy.
The audience that reads these columns, of course, is overwhelmingly composed of people who develop 3D content themselves, rather than purchase it from others. They may fairly wonder why I should devote attention here to technology that is unavailable to them. But Superscape's business strategy is important to understand in its own right as we all try to make sense of the fast-developing Web 3D scene. And, more significantly, some aspects of Superscape's technology are impressive enough to deserve attention from all interested players.
First to the business strategy. I talked with Paul at length about the issues surrounding the use of a plug-in application requiring a separate download. He acknowledged that requiring users with to download and install the player, which is necessarily presented in the slightly intimidating context of a security alert, is a problem. But he argued that the Superscape download and installation is fast and easyÂwhich is trueÂand that users are becoming more and more accustomed to such downloads. Readers of this column must certainly be aware of my skepticism on this point, but mine is hardly the only view around and Superscape has invested considerable money and energy on this premise. Like all players using a plug-in strategy, Superscape hopes to see the day in which its technology is perceived as the leader and finds its way into a standard Web browser installation. This, of course, would be the ultimate payoff, but is entirely speculative right now.
Just as with MetaStream's players, SeV players come in separate versions for Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape. The former is implemented as an ActiveX control, the latter as a collection of Java class (in a .jar file).
I didn't talk about it with Paul, but Superscape's decision to cut its ties to VRML is noteworthy and deserves consideration by all observers of the new Web 3D landscape. Superscape was a major player in the VRML communityÂperhaps the most significant one remaining after the collapse of Cosmo Software. At a mininum, this action is evidence that some in the best position to know feel that the VRML standard and its institutions are no longer a viable path for the future. I don't agree with this view, but it must be given it's due.
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Created: Feb. 1, 2000
Revised: Feb. 1, 2000