Who Will Be Bought First – Rhino or MoI?

There has always been talk of how McNeel will be bought by one of the larger companies. I have been hearing this since Rhino 2.0. Some of you may have heard this earlier. Either Bob McNeel and his Associates would prefer to die rather than selling their company or they have not yet been made a good enough offer. I hope it is the former. I personally like the McNeel business model and have praised it more than once on this blog.

However, in recent times, with an increase focus on non-parametric modeling, thanks to SpaceClaim and the like, things are getting more interesting in this sphere. This brings me to Moment Of Inspiration, the Rhino-like CAD software developed by Michael Gibson, a former McNeel employee.

For those who don’t know, Michael was the brain behind Rhino. He wrote all the code for Rhino (other than the geometry kernel code) for two years while other McNeel developers were working on a project called “AccuModel”, a plug-in for AutoCAD that enabled NURBS modeling using the Applied Geometry kernel inside AutoCAD. Michael wrote all the user interface code, the command structure, object/point pickers, toolbar buttons, icon editor, graphics display, viewports, color picker, object snaps and so on. He did all this in C (a programming language), which was later ported to C++. After two years Rhino was in better shape that AccuModel. So McNeel decided to shaft AccuModel and moved all the developers to improve Rhino. From then on Rhino development went into overdrive.

My point is that under the hood Rhino and MoI have a lot in common. Sure they do not look the same. Michael is marketing it as a CAD system for tablet PCs. I am not buying into that. I believe he did not want MoI to be given the “clone” tag, something which IntelliCAD is still trying to shed.

As the thrust towards non-parametric modeling gathers momentum, the big companies with strict parametric modeling systems will want to offer their customers a non-parametric solution as well. Probably as a freebie with their parametric system, just like how SolidWorks is offering IntelliCAD free with a SolidWorks license, to make it easier for AutoCAD users to move to SolidWorks. I do not expect SolidWorks to suddenly start non-parametric modeling, no matter how “smart” it gets. But it is conceivable that SolidWorks could bundle a non-parametric system, which exchanges design data seamlessly with SolidWorks, as well as sell it separately. The same goes for other big vendors.

As always, when faced with a “make or buy” decision the easier and faster way out is to buy. So if the big companies cannot buy out McNeel, they are going to try to lay their hands on Triple Squid Software Design, Michael’s one-man company (if they haven’t already). Maybe they are just waiting for him to finish MoI (it’s still in open beta). I am sure Michael could retrofit MoI with a menu and command prompt at short notice.

I am not trying to equate Rhino with MoI here. MoI is merely a subset of Rhino, although it has a far better graphics display. MoI can display gorgeous anti-aliased curves even on low end video cards. As a plug-in developer, to me the greatest drawback of MoI is that it does not yet support plug-ins. I have taken up with issue with Michael, but he has other things on his mind. After all how much can one man do alone, even if his name is Michael Gibson.

When upFront.eZine asked Bob McNeel about MoI, he spoke about how keeping 150,000 Rhino users happy wasn’t as fun as starting something new. He ended by saying, “I guess that is why many startups sell out before they have been around more than a few years“. So does Bob want to go back to having fun?

  • ralphg

    Rhino and/or SolidWorks have translators for each other.

  • ralphg

    Rhino and/or SolidWorks have translators for each other.

  • r.paul waddington

    Ralphg said, “Rhino and/or SolidWorks have translators for each other.”
    And don’t forget SolidWorks has Cosmic Blobs; with its intuitive interface, context sensitive audio and animation why would any designer want to work with software that designed machines, buildings or A380s for that matter. On second thought with that trio tho’ you could do all of the above and have fun eh!:-)

  • r.paul waddington

    Ralphg said, “Rhino and/or SolidWorks have translators for each other.”And don’t forget SolidWorks has Cosmic Blobs; with its intuitive interface, context sensitive audio and animation why would any designer want to work with software that designed machines, buildings or A380s for that matter. On second thought with that trio tho’ you could do all of the above and have fun eh!:-)

  • Deelip Menezes

    Ralph, indeed Rhino and SolidWorks understand each other quite well. And MOI uses Rhino’s file format, So the same applies to MOI as well.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Ralph, indeed Rhino and SolidWorks understand each other quite well. And MOI uses Rhino’s file format, So the same applies to MOI as well.

  • Michael Gibson

    Hi Deelip!

    > MoI is merely a subset of Rhino

    Yes, in general there is a lot more stuff in Rhino. But MoI is not actually a proper subset – there is actually non-UI geometry technology that MoI has that is not in Rhino.

    The biggest example of this is MoI’s technology to generate a clean mesh from a NURBS object using multi-sided polygons (N-gons) instead of only breaking things down into quads and triangles.

    This is actually a really big deal for people who are exporting NURBS objects into rendering/animation type programs like Cinema4D, XSI, Maya, Modo, LightWave, etc… The resulting wireframes closely resemble the original NURBS objects instead of looking like a big jumbled mess of triangles.

    As far as I know this n-gon meshing technology is unique to MoI in the entire CAD industry.

    > Michael is marketing it as a CAD system for
    > tablet PCs. I am not buying into that.

    Originally I was actually more focused on Wacom-style pen tablets that plug in to an ordinary PC, since those are more widely used, especially by artists. TabletPC sort of automatically follows from that.

    But your “clone” comment is pretty close – when I started MoI I just was not particularly interested in making something exactly the same as everything else. It’s a lot more interesting and fun to push things in new areas.

    From my experience in supporting people using Rhino, I knew that people using pen tablets have a hard time using CAD software in general. This is due to several factors such as heavy reliance on right or middle click that is either awkward or just not possible with a pen stylus.

    So this was a kind of interesting niche that I decided to focus on. It can help a small business to succeed if it focuses in on an underserved niche market.

    To make MoI work well with a pen stylus required throwing out a bunch of normal CAD UI conventions and starting completely from scratch. This was very time consuming for UI design work, but something cool happened at the end result – simplifying things to work easily with just simple “left-click” taps of the pen and no keyboard touches resulted in a streamlined UI that is also easier for mouse users as well.

    There are actually currently a lot more non-tablet users of MoI than tablet users.

    Going forward, I want to keep the ability to work well on a tablet but the marketing message will shift more towards general ease of use and productivity rather than so much of a focus on talking about the tablet.

    re: aquisition

    Well, you know that Bob has a lot of focus on the customer. I’m sure he would entertain the idea of being bought if it would result in some benefit to his customer base. The problem is that buy outs are usually more exclusively focused on stock price manipulation and most of the time result in negative consequences to the user base instead of good things. Something like that just does not jibe well with his business philosophy.

    Some people assume that I created MoI with the intention of being bought out, I guess because that is generally a somewhat common goal with startups. But that’s not really my focus, my plan is to just run a small business working on the type of software that I most enjoy.

    I won’t rule out being bought out – for me there are a lot more potential positives than for Bob because I’ve got severe resource constraints working all on my own. For Bob this isn’t the case – being bought out is not likely to give him access to a bunch of resources that he doesn’t already have.

  • Michael Gibson

    Hi Deelip!> MoI is merely a subset of RhinoYes, in general there is a lot more stuff in Rhino. But MoI is not actually a proper subset – there is actually non-UI geometry technology that MoI has that is not in Rhino.The biggest example of this is MoI’s technology to generate a clean mesh from a NURBS object using multi-sided polygons (N-gons) instead of only breaking things down into quads and triangles.This is actually a really big deal for people who are exporting NURBS objects into rendering/animation type programs like Cinema4D, XSI, Maya, Modo, LightWave, etc… The resulting wireframes closely resemble the original NURBS objects instead of looking like a big jumbled mess of triangles. As far as I know this n-gon meshing technology is unique to MoI in the entire CAD industry.> Michael is marketing it as a CAD system for> tablet PCs. I am not buying into that.Originally I was actually more focused on Wacom-style pen tablets that plug in to an ordinary PC, since those are more widely used, especially by artists. TabletPC sort of automatically follows from that.But your “clone” comment is pretty close – when I started MoI I just was not particularly interested in making something exactly the same as everything else. It’s a lot more interesting and fun to push things in new areas.From my experience in supporting people using Rhino, I knew that people using pen tablets have a hard time using CAD software in general. This is due to several factors such as heavy reliance on right or middle click that is either awkward or just not possible with a pen stylus.So this was a kind of interesting niche that I decided to focus on. It can help a small business to succeed if it focuses in on an underserved niche market.To make MoI work well with a pen stylus required throwing out a bunch of normal CAD UI conventions and starting completely from scratch. This was very time consuming for UI design work, but something cool happened at the end result – simplifying things to work easily with just simple “left-click” taps of the pen and no keyboard touches resulted in a streamlined UI that is also easier for mouse users as well.There are actually currently a lot more non-tablet users of MoI than tablet users.Going forward, I want to keep the ability to work well on a tablet but the marketing message will shift more towards general ease of use and productivity rather than so much of a focus on talking about the tablet.re: aquisitionWell, you know that Bob has a lot of focus on the customer. I’m sure he would entertain the idea of being bought if it would result in some benefit to his customer base. The problem is that buy outs are usually more exclusively focused on stock price manipulation and most of the time result in negative consequences to the user base instead of good things. Something like that just does not jibe well with his business philosophy.Some people assume that I created MoI with the intention of being bought out, I guess because that is generally a somewhat common goal with startups. But that’s not really my focus, my plan is to just run a small business working on the type of software that I most enjoy.I won’t rule out being bought out – for me there are a lot more potential positives than for Bob because I’ve got severe resource constraints working all on my own. For Bob this isn’t the case – being bought out is not likely to give him access to a bunch of resources that he doesn’t already have.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Michael, my apologies. I stand corrected. MOI is not a true subset of Rhino. MOI does have some nice things that Rhino doesn’t.

    Yes, the tablet talk should take a back seat.

    I wish you all the best. Looking forward to the release of MOI.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Michael, my apologies. I stand corrected. MOI is not a true subset of Rhino. MOI does have some nice things that Rhino doesn’t.Yes, the tablet talk should take a back seat.I wish you all the best. Looking forward to the release of MOI.

  • Michael Gibson

    Hi Deelip, thanks for the encouraging words!

    No apology necessary – I know what you meant, Rhino does generally have a lot more stuff in it than MoI, no doubt about that.

    Of course that leads to the question – is more always automatically better?

    A lot of things operate taking this to always be true, but I don’t think that is necessarily the case.

  • Michael Gibson

    Hi Deelip, thanks for the encouraging words!No apology necessary – I know what you meant, Rhino does generally have a lot more stuff in it than MoI, no doubt about that.Of course that leads to the question – is more always automatically better?A lot of things operate taking this to always be true, but I don’t think that is necessarily the case.

  • heath

    “MoI can display gorgeous anti-aliased curves even on low end video cards.”

    Not sure about really low-end cards, but Rhino 4.0 does display gorgeous anti-aliased curves. The new display in V4 is better suited to good video cards, but the display in Rhino has a made a tremendous leap since version 3. Give it a try…

  • heath

    “MoI can display gorgeous anti-aliased curves even on low end video cards.”Not sure about really low-end cards, but Rhino 4.0 does display gorgeous anti-aliased curves. The new display in V4 is better suited to good video cards, but the display in Rhino has a made a tremendous leap since version 3. Give it a try…