The 3D PDF Consortium

One of the sponsors of COFES 2011 was an organization called “3D PDF Consortium”. After having followed the 3D PDF mess for some time (see “The Adobe 3D PDF Train Wreck“) I was curious to know what Adobe was up to now. So I attended one of the Technology Suite briefings which was dedicated to explaining what the 3D PDF Consortium was all about. I must say I left the briefing with more questions than answers.

The 3D PDF Consortium appears to be an advocacy group with the purpose of  “encouraging the continued development and adoption of 3D PDF as a truly open standard for visualization, collaboration, data exchange, and the long-term archiving and retrieval engineering data“. The consortium already has a bunch of members, one of them being Adobe. The consortium will take input from its members and work with various standards and government organizations to ensure the ongoing development of 3D PDF as a standard.

I inquired about the constitution of the consortium and whether it was a not-for-profit organization. To my surprise I was told that nothing was decided as yet and they were looking for a person to head the consortium. I asked whether the consortium would have any intellectual property. The answer was no. You see, Adobe makes money off 3D PDF by licensing their 3D PDF read/write library to other developers through Tech Soft 3D. They also make money by selling 3D PDF Converter to end users through Tetra 4D. Needless to say, both these companies are also members of the 3D PDF Consortium.

So I began wondering. If the 3D PDF Consortium didn’t have any IP to share with its members (like the Open Design Alliance does), was the organization some kind of a marketing arm for Adobe, Tech Soft 3D and Tetra 4D? I mean what would members stand to gain in lieu of their membership fees? I put the question across and got the same answer about the organization promoting 3D PDF as a standard and about them looking for a person to head the organization.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not discounting the 3D PDF Consortium. I just don’t have enough information to even create an opinion about it in the first place. All this talk about promoting 3D PDF as a standard is good. I’m all for it. In fact, I recommend 3D PDF as a format for long term archival. Just that I have no idea what members stand to gain in exchange for their membership fees. I don’t even know what those membership fees are to begin with.

The way I see this unfolding, Adobe wants to make 3D PDF as a standard and also wants to make money while doing so. While there is nothing wrong with that, it may turn out to be a chicken and egg problem for them. To make 3D PDF as a standard (on the ground, not just at ISO) Adobe needs software developers to make their software read and write 3D PDF files and then make users actually read and write 3D PDF files using that software. Making software developers and users pay good money to do that may prevent them from making it a standard in the first place.