Re: Inventor file format

Mark Waks (
Tue, 21 Jun 94 14:23:05 EDT

Owen writes:
>Autodesk knows this well, as our DXF file format and our 3DS format
>have both been well received in the market place.
>Less well known is our CDF ( cyberspace description file -format )

Intriguing; is this format intended to be proprietary, or open? If
the latter, is there more information available?

>Other areas of thechnology have seen some pretty bloody battles over
>whos standard will become standard, and quite often *the best standard* does
>not win the day. The power politics of corporate reality are always around
>the corner when you are dealing with a companys proprietary standard,
>and I think that dismissing the issue of SGI's role to merely asking for
>a statement is naive.

Maybe. The real issue is, what commercial tack is SGI taking with
Inventor? There are two major approaches to using "standards", and
which they are taking is likely to determine how enthused they get
about Inventor getting used for VRML.

The first tack is pushing a "standard", but trying to lock up the tools
market by making sure you own that standard lock, stock, and barrel. In
this model, you may not make all the tools yourself, but you make sure
that anyone else making tools based on your format is paying you a fee
to do so. Adobe Postscript is a good example.

The second tack is to sincerely push the standard as an open one, but
make sure that you're ahead of the learning curve. Other people may
be developing tools based on the standard, but you make sure that you
know how to use the standard better than anyone else, and your tools
are always a little better than the other guy's. In this model, you
push the standard very, very hard, while also pushing your tools for

The first is the more typical big-company approach, which is why I
will be cautious until and unless SGI makes a clear statement that this
standard is public-domain. The second is possible, though, and some
companies have become quite rich doing it. (Ie, Microsoft, although
they've cheated a bit on Windows. Still, they've mostly played this
game, with the "standards" being DOS and Windows and the "tools" being
the applications to run on top of them. Having some control over the
standard's evolution is often powerful enough by itself.)

There is a clear effect on what SGI says. If they are taking the first
tack, they're pretty unlikely to give us anywhere near the permission
we want. But if it's the second, and we were to sell it right, they'd
be fairly likely to embrace it enthusiastically. We'll see...

>Again, the facts are that SGI's position in the marketplace is pretty
>far down on the food chain. There are ~60 million PC class machines out here
>and the reality of the marketplace is that before too long we will be
>seeing home-based machines with processing and display power beyond
>the level of todays workstations being employed as *multi-media terminals*
>(my terminology for what the industry is calling set-top boxes)

Well, bear in mind that there isn't *anybody* really at the top of the
PC VR "food chain" yet. Everyone wants into that market, but no one is
anywhere near controlling it yet...

>The battles that will ensue are not yet begun.

I disagree -- they've begun, but haven't gotten very far. The abundance
of VR standards that are appearing amount to the initial maneuverings
of the war. And, frankly, we're simply one of the early battlegrounds
(albeit one small enough that the companies show no sign of having
noticed us yet).

Something to consider, though -- we might well wind up having a real
effect on that war. *If* this project really goes somewhere, and we
wind up defining how Internet cyberspace looks over the next couple of
years, and *if* the infobahn actually happens, so that a fair fraction
of those 60M PCs wind up hooked into that cyberspace, that's going to
create one *hell* of a market. *If* we were to decide on Inventor,
that would give SGI a killer headstart on development tools for that
market. Is this scenario likely? Damned if I know -- too many
variables. But I certainly think it's possible...

-- Justin
Who finds scenario-building fun, if
laughably unpredictable...

Random Quote du Jour:

To the other Jesse:
"...You would have to be the Edmund Hillary of social climbers to reach
the level of pond scum. In fact, forget the social ladder: you would have
to begin by climbing the food chain.
You might at least try *acting* human to see how you like it. Or don't
you do imitations?"
-- Nurse Jones