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3D DIRECT • July 9, 2001

Eternal Truth of the Week

The Sands are a Changing

by Swami Rendsanotsa

Ahhhh. It is a beautiful day in the sand—as long as you like heat. The 3D industry continues its upheavals. And almost every day the Swami hears another rumor that this-and-such major developer is near death. Which wouldn't at all be based on similar Entertainment Industry practices. You know, when a chat forum suddenly has a new person who says how bad the movie is because their sister's friend's mom knows someone who saw a rough cut. Nahhh.

All is not lost in 3D Land yet. We are not all owned by Microsoft. But we shouldn't rest and think that the products we know and love will be around forever. Jon Peddie Associates put out a promising industry report, 3D on the Web, which, according to them, "examines the expanding market for technologies that bring 3D graphics to the Web." Before going farther, however, I must remind you that for every study that says things are getting better, I can find you another study that says the opposite. Take everything you read with a grain of sand.

Jon Peddie Associates proclaims, "3D on the Web forecasts strong growth in the number of sites using 3D technologies to deploy new types of content for e-commerce, entertainment and gaming, business collaboration, and other applications. 3D sites are expected to expand from just a handful in 2001 to more than one million by 2007. At the same time, deployment of 3D viewing technologies, such as Shockwave 3D, will grow from just over 21 million in 2001 to more than 559 million by 2007." The report also covers 3D-enabled browsers, 3D-enabled PCs, and the number of Internet access accounts (both dial-up and broadband) worldwide.

Sure, 2007 seems a long way off. But you may have noticed, we still have a lot of growing to do. And that growth will fuel Web 3D growth. When more of society has faster Internet access, and sturdier computers, Web 3D will be more accessible. It will probably also help as more Web 3D companies make plug-in viewers that will work on more than one type of system—not everyone uses Win 98, even if that's what Microsoft wants you to believe.

John Peddie Associates were right in pointing out many of the industries Web 3D could be used in. To stay afloat, companies will have to embrace that dreaded "D" word—diversification. Companies making a product that can only be used in one facet of 3D—be it games, e-commerce, or entertainment—may start out great. But unless they charge more than this Swami makes in a year for one seat, after the main rush to buy the item is over, new users won't come around enough to keep a small company afloat. Whereas if a company continually reinvents the product so more industries can use it, they may have a chance at lasting.

"Much of the growth we forecast will be due to the success of companies that exhibit the foresight to work together to grow the market as a whole," said Samantha Staples, Jon Peddie Associates software analyst and the author of the report. "Though the technologies are themselves important, they are secondary to the partnerships that will help ensure the ubiquity of 3D on the Web as a whole. There's a lot of money to be made but the real jackpot is waiting for those who can pool their resources to survive this tough embryonic phase."

Does this sound familiar to anyone out there? If it doesn't yet, wait until SIGGRAPH. Check out some of the big booths. Discreet, whose big booth you can't miss, will be surrounded by partner companies, as will most of the other major companies—and some of the hold backs are probably waiting until the expo to announce anything. It doesn't take a seer to know that partnerships have been a part of business since the day the inventor of the wheel met the inventor of the cart. Sure, some partnerships don't work—Firestone and Ford. But many more do.

As SIGGRAPH comes, look at how the companies prepare to position themselves for the following year. Check out which ones look to be interested in collaborating in some way with other companies, and which ones think they're doing fine on their own. It'll make it easier to guess who should be around in six years.

The Swami is off to count the grains of sand.