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.