Solid Modeling For $195

If all goes according to plan, by mid-October, Michael Gibson will start selling Moment Of Inspiration (MoI) for $195 a license. He has finished writing the software and is busy wrapping up the documentation.

MoI is a 3D NURBS solid modeling program with an unbelievably small download file size of 4.7 MB only. It is powered by the SOLIDS++ modeling kernel by IntegrityWare, which has companies like Bentley, McNeel and Alias (now Autodesk) on it’s customer list. So I guess MoI should be able to do most of the things other solid modelers do. The snapshot below should give you an idea.

I am curious to see how Michael markets MoI. His web site title reads “MoI, 3D Modeling for Designers and Artists“, which, in my opinion, is not the best way forward. He started developing MoI as a CAD software for the Tablet PC. But now he admits, “There are actually currently a lot more non-tablet users of MoI than tablet users“. I guess Michael can take a page out of SpaceClaim’s marketing strategy. In my opinion MoI would be a perfect candidate to target the “extended development team” which includes people involved in conceptual design, engineering and manufacturing. Probably not in it’s current form, but it’s got what it takes, the main thing going for it being its price. You just cannot beat $195. I can see top management willing to dish out $195 a license to get the extended development team in the loop. After all, the idea is to get the extended development team to contribute to the design, not actually design. Therefore spending thousands of dollars on the extended development team doesn’t make much financial sense, especially of MoI can do what is required of it.

In my opinion, sooner than later, Michael will have to give up the Tablet PC friendly interface for a more normal interface. I would recommend going ahead with the Microsoft Office ribbon style interface, especially since SolidWorks and SpaceClaim have already joined the bandwagon and more are expected to follow. Normal PC users will be more willing to accept MoI if it has an interface they they are familiar with, instead of making them use their computer as they would use a Tablet PC. For example, right clicking on an object in MoI does not pop up a context menu. Instead, it repeats the last command. Being a programmer, I fully understand that Michael has taken pains to go down this Tablet PC road and back tracking is not going to be easy.

Currently MoI can read and write IGES files, which should be enough for it to fit into any company’s workflow which contains other more capable and more expensive solid modeling software. STEP and SAT support would certainly be welcome since IGES comes with its own set of problems. CAD software vendors have abused the IGES standard by making their own “flavors” of the IGES file format to suit their particular needs, thereby creating many variants of the IGES file format. This can be seen from the fact that Rhinoceros can write 60 types of IGES files.

This first version of MoI will not have support for plug-ins (which is bad news for me) but Michael tells me that he would provide an SDK for third party developers in later versions. That is good news but brings up an important question. With MoI being priced at $195, how much money will I be able to make from a MoI plug-in? I am already having a problem with the pricing of my IntelliCAD plug-ins.

In my opinion, the key to MoI’s success or failure will not lie in it’s abilities but rather in the way it is marketed.

  • ralphg

    Moving MOI away from a TabletPC-friendly UI? Darn, just as I bought one (an HP TX-series notebook computer that is convertable into a TabletPC).

    But I see now why TabletPCs failed in the consumer marketplace: too big and too heavy, even the small one I got (12″). The PalmPilot form factor is where it’s at.

  • ralphg

    Moving MOI away from a TabletPC-friendly UI? Darn, just as I bought one (an HP TX-series notebook computer that is convertable into a TabletPC).But I see now why TabletPCs failed in the consumer marketplace: too big and too heavy, even the small one I got (12″). The PalmPilot form factor is where it’s at.

  • Michael Gibson

    Hi Deelip, thank you for your continuing interest in MoI!

    Wow, so much to comment on here.

    It sounds to me like you’re recommending that I just straight out target the exact same segment as SpaceClaim…

    There are a lot of factors that make that complex.

    The first factor is it just isn’t an area that I am extremely interested in – I just personally have a lot more interest in the area of creative design from scratch. This interest guides the development of MoI to a pretty significant extent, and I think that being guided by a personal interest gives a very different feel to the end result. It just makes for a more fun and warm vibe, not a cold and clinical “designed by the marketing department for maximal revenue extraction” type of thing. A lot of people have commented to me that MoI feels fun, one person recently called it his “favorite computer game”!

    The other thing is that a focus on the “extended development team” would probably mean a pretty big change in toolset. It looks to me like SpaceClaim is focused a lot on editing an existing model rather than creating something from scratch.

    Geometry kernels often times do not provide 100% of the stuff to finish a particular specific result, they often times are more of a foundation of tools that you can use in development of your own additional functionality. For example for MoI I have probably put in about 1 year of development time to add additional functions and rewrite portions of the kernel to meet my specific needs.

    So it isn’t very likely to be feasible to just flip a switch or something and immediately change how a product works, it can require a lot of extra development to provide capabilities specific to what you want it to do.

    It seems like SpaceClaim has an interesting target in an area that is neglected by other CAD companies.

    I think I’ve also targeted a different area that is also neglected – a non-engineer user who would benefit from creating designs using CAD, but has found that existing design programs are beyond their reach due to needing a major investment, both in money as well as significant time needed to undertake training to learn how to use a very complex program.

    Nobody out there seems to be focused on “make it quick and easy to do simple things” at an approachable price. Actually Sketchup has done it well for the realm of Architecture, but nothing similar has happened for more general Industrial Design or MCAD.

    MoI fits into this neglected segment well.

    There are just an awful lot of users that have been “left behind” by existing CAD companies in their rush to add more stuff, more bullet items on a list of features, PLM, etc…

    One interesting thing I have found is that doing simple things quickly and easily is not just of use to beginning users, I have also been talking to a lot of highly advanced designers who are also interested because of increased modeling speed to make simple prototypes in the early stages of a design.

    There is an interesting connection between ease of use and modeling speed – fewer steps to make things easier also brings speed along with it.

    Yet another factor in the marketing equation is that since I have such stupendously low overhead costs, the criteria that I have for “success” is way different from what it means even to a smaller CAD company. In other words, I can easily get by on a sales level that would be untenable for another company.

    > In my opinion, sooner thanlater, Michael
    > will have to give up the Tablet PC
    > friendly interface for a more normal
    > interface.

    Well, it’s served me very well so far – it was the catalyst that forced me to redesign the UI and processes from the ground up.

    I’m definitely planning on trying to keep it going as much as possible. I’m sure there will eventually be some more advanced functions that may not fit into this mold, but keeping a focus on making simple and basic operation work well with a tablet helps keep the whole process streamlined to just using simple left clicks on things.

    > I would recommend going ahead with
    > the Microsoft Office ribbon style interface

    Actually MoI’s UI shares quite an awful lot of design goals with the Microsoft Ribbon interface. Both of them dispense with the old-fashioned menu/toolbar combo approach and instead have a more unified combined system with prevalent use of tabs.

    One actual bonus of MoI’s design is that it has separate tab sections, not just one huge section that can only have a single tab active at a time. I believe this is a major plus for MoI, since often times with modeling since it isn’t unusual to bounce back and forth between some different tools fairly rapidly. With MoI’s possibility to have more than one tabbed palette active, it can help to reduce the amount of tab switching that needs to be done.

    I think there is a pretty big misconception out there that just adopting the Microsoft Ribbon UI automatically equals “easy to use”. It’s certainly a good foundation, but Office is something of a special case. For instance there is a very wide familiarity with many of the word processing icons for example for Bold, Italic, etc… So Office can get away with little tiny icons in spots which does not translate to other domains quite so easily. For example glancing at some of the SpaceClaim screenshots, I see a whole bunch of little icons that I have no idea what they do just at a glance.

    I am pretty confident that MoI’s UI design combines the same good parts from the Ribbon design while at the same time being specifically adapted for my particular needs.

    – Michael

  • Michael Gibson

    Hi Deelip, thank you for your continuing interest in MoI!Wow, so much to comment on here.It sounds to me like you’re recommending that I just straight out target the exact same segment as SpaceClaim…There are a lot of factors that make that complex.The first factor is it just isn’t an area that I am extremely interested in – I just personally have a lot more interest in the area of creative design from scratch. This interest guides the development of MoI to a pretty significant extent, and I think that being guided by a personal interest gives a very different feel to the end result. It just makes for a more fun and warm vibe, not a cold and clinical “designed by the marketing department for maximal revenue extraction” type of thing. A lot of people have commented to me that MoI feels fun, one person recently called it his “favorite computer game”!The other thing is that a focus on the “extended development team” would probably mean a pretty big change in toolset. It looks to me like SpaceClaim is focused a lot on editing an existing model rather than creating something from scratch.Geometry kernels often times do not provide 100% of the stuff to finish a particular specific result, they often times are more of a foundation of tools that you can use in development of your own additional functionality. For example for MoI I have probably put in about 1 year of development time to add additional functions and rewrite portions of the kernel to meet my specific needs.So it isn’t very likely to be feasible to just flip a switch or something and immediately change how a product works, it can require a lot of extra development to provide capabilities specific to what you want it to do.It seems like SpaceClaim has an interesting target in an area that is neglected by other CAD companies.I think I’ve also targeted a different area that is also neglected – a non-engineer user who would benefit from creating designs using CAD, but has found that existing design programs are beyond their reach due to needing a major investment, both in money as well as significant time needed to undertake training to learn how to use a very complex program.Nobody out there seems to be focused on “make it quick and easy to do simple things” at an approachable price. Actually Sketchup has done it well for the realm of Architecture, but nothing similar has happened for more general Industrial Design or MCAD.MoI fits into this neglected segment well.There are just an awful lot of users that have been “left behind” by existing CAD companies in their rush to add more stuff, more bullet items on a list of features, PLM, etc…One interesting thing I have found is that doing simple things quickly and easily is not just of use to beginning users, I have also been talking to a lot of highly advanced designers who are also interested because of increased modeling speed to make simple prototypes in the early stages of a design.There is an interesting connection between ease of use and modeling speed – fewer steps to make things easier also brings speed along with it.Yet another factor in the marketing equation is that since I have such stupendously low overhead costs, the criteria that I have for “success” is way different from what it means even to a smaller CAD company. In other words, I can easily get by on a sales level that would be untenable for another company.> In my opinion, sooner thanlater, Michael> will have to give up the Tablet PC> friendly interface for a more normal> interface.Well, it’s served me very well so far – it was the catalyst that forced me to redesign the UI and processes from the ground up.I’m definitely planning on trying to keep it going as much as possible. I’m sure there will eventually be some more advanced functions that may not fit into this mold, but keeping a focus on making simple and basic operation work well with a tablet helps keep the whole process streamlined to just using simple left clicks on things.> I would recommend going ahead with> the Microsoft Office ribbon style interfaceActually MoI’s UI shares quite an awful lot of design goals with the Microsoft Ribbon interface. Both of them dispense with the old-fashioned menu/toolbar combo approach and instead have a more unified combined system with prevalent use of tabs.One actual bonus of MoI’s design is that it has separate tab sections, not just one huge section that can only have a single tab active at a time. I believe this is a major plus for MoI, since often times with modeling since it isn’t unusual to bounce back and forth between some different tools fairly rapidly. With MoI’s possibility to have more than one tabbed palette active, it can help to reduce the amount of tab switching that needs to be done.I think there is a pretty big misconception out there that just adopting the Microsoft Ribbon UI automatically equals “easy to use”. It’s certainly a good foundation, but Office is something of a special case. For instance there is a very wide familiarity with many of the word processing icons for example for Bold, Italic, etc… So Office can get away with little tiny icons in spots which does not translate to other domains quite so easily. For example glancing at some of the SpaceClaim screenshots, I see a whole bunch of little icons that I have no idea what they do just at a glance.I am pretty confident that MoI’s UI design combines the same good parts from the Ribbon design while at the same time being specifically adapted for my particular needs. – Michael

  • Marcos Pérez

    I´ve been searching a program like this a lot of time in order to work as a freelance industrial designer in Spain. MoI has all the things I need for sketching accurately a 3d model, & the price of 200$ is very, very competitive. Thanks Michael.
    signed: one future buyer

  • Marcos Pérez

    I´ve been searching a program like this a lot of time in order to work as a freelance industrial designer in Spain. MoI has all the things I need for sketching accurately a 3d model, & the price of 200$ is very, very competitive. Thanks Michael.signed: one future buyer