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?