The three main players in the booming multimedia design tools market showed off their wares at last week's Digital Media show in London. All three plan to ship cutting edge products for the games and film sectors early next year.
Alias/Wavefront?s project Maya is due for completion in March, while Soft Image is hot on its tail with version 4.0 of its eponymous product, code-named Sumatra. The third contender, Kinetix, is promising Radiosity for early next year.
All three leaders in this arena have larger interest behind them - Softimage is now a subsidiary of Microsoft, Alias/Wavefront is owned by Silicon Graphics (SGI), and Kinetix a subsidiary of Autodesk.
The financial backing of premier league players has greatly increased the research and development funds available in this sector, which is now advancing in leaps and bounds. No sooner had Alias/Wavefront introduced version 8.0 of its Power Animator flagship this month, than it was outlining its new product, Maya, due for release in March and targeted directly at main rival Soft Image.
Maya has been greeted with interest by loyal Soft Image users. Graeme Andrew, head of computer images at the London post-production house, The Mill, said that traditionally Soft Image was far more user-friendly than A/W software, but Maya represented a turnaround.
With Silicon Graphics workstations dominant in the hardware side of this business, its ownership could give A/W a serious advantage. However, Simon Davies, UK managing director of Soft Image, said that its relations with Silicon Graphics had not altered since SGI took over its competitor.
Soft Image has its own serious backing from parent Microsoft. It has now developed a product that runs on Microsoft NT as well as Unix. Davies said that the net result has been a fall in the price of hardware, as Silicon Graphics reduced its prices to meet competition from NT workstations.
A/W suggests that Microsoft and its subsidiary Soft Image have been implementing price cuts in order to push competitors out of the market. David Geoffrey, product specialist at A/W, said that he believed that Microsoft intended to take over the whole market.
Kinetix also produces software for NT, claiming price competitiveness as its main selling point. Keith Russell of Kinetix said he hadn?t heard of any proposed price cuts from rivals but suggested that both of them ought to consider it, and should also look at bringing UK and US prices into line.
All three companies have high profile clients. The film ?The Craft? uses 3D Studio Max by Kinetix. The video game ?Quake? uses Power Animator by A/W. The film ?City Of The Lost?, which won the film catagory at the London Effects And Animation Festival, makes use of Soft Image.
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