Friday, October 27, 2006

Why Not X3D on Macintosh?

A colleague says, "… until someone makes a decent player for the Mac, you'll never see all the amazing content created on a Mac in the VRML world. You must realize that most high end content is created on Mac. 90% of high end Hollywood 2D and 3D content is for sure. Besides, even if most of the world owns PCs, pretty much every "creative" I talk to about VRML is on a Mac for their real work and they all wish we had some decent players for Macs.”

Snob. ;-) Let me be my curmudgeonly self...

Really. X3D is not a high end format and VRML wasn’t one when it started. Lots of creatives are on PCs, but more importantly, the vast majority of web customers are, and that is what the web as a marketplace is about: customers. Savvy creatives adapt to the customer base. Hollywood is not that customer base. It is a high end production town with high end developers. If they want to put content on the web, they adapt to the web or they adapt the web. It won’t happen by promoting Macs unless the Mac becomes a TV the way iPods became transistor radios.

I’ve never seen a decent Mac VRML client. That is the point. If Apple owners want them, they need to bug Steve Jobs. He built a closed system and is satisfied with his high-end developers and architecture. If he wants to put 3D on the web, he has to develop a client. If he wants that client to be standard on the web (something Apple isn’t famous for doing in the majority of cases), he steps up to the web standards for 3D or does what he always does: launches yet another closed system, in this case, Safari’s canvas tag. Who gets to see that? Safari users who own Macs. PC owners? Jobs doesn’t care about PC owners.

That’s the problem of the Mac vs The Web. Job doesn’t have to care about Mac content or Mac customers; he owns them both. iTunes is a splendid example of how well that strategy works. It took him all of two years to slam the doors on indie musicians and production and open them up to the middlemen. He managed to reconstruct the BadOlMusicIndustry with lightning speed under his control.

And that is what you want for X3D content and the 3D user community?

Say anything you like. That is how the Apple market shakes out. PC owners just don’t care and never will. They can’t. It would mean giving up their chance at the Big Break to The Man from Cupertino.

If Mac owners want X3D, they can demand it. They are the customers but they have to demand it from the boutique dealers where they buy the rest of their stuff because the guys selling commodity products know full well that Macs ain’t commodity products. And they never will be because that isn’t what Jobs wants to sell or else he would be Bill Gates. Talk to any Mercedes dealer about Fords. Who invented the car and made it the best it could be at the time: Mercedes. Who put the masses on the road? Ford. Who took the market away from them both? GM. Why? Smarter than both at both jobs. Who took it from them? Toyota. For the same reason. Who’ll take it next. Who knows.

Would production quality X3D editors and viewers for the Mac result in high-quality X3D? Heck yes, but it will only happen when the boutique content makers decide they want to sell lower-cost knock-offs at Wal-Mart.

That day may come sooner than some think. The web-based portals are becoming gazillion-channel broadcast networks. YouTube is a fluke the way that HTML was: a low end access point to lots and lots of content but that matters. Over time, people want more and better and new and different and eventually in any flat-market a talent longTail begins to rise up and dominate the landscape. It’s sad for the rest of the talent community when that happens, but competition is a reality of markets. As that point is reached, Hollywood and their evil zombie cousins in New York, Atlanta and Nashville will do as they’ve always done: dominate the management of the talent by paying them lots and lots of money. And then they will all buy Macs.

Web business sustainability evolves toward controlling the sources for resources just as any commodity market differentiated by limited sources does. This is where Radar O’Reilly and Mark Cuban lose it with the ‘real sharing’ riffs. At the point of maximum uncertainty, forces are applied to hold an object in orbit. $$$ is the strong force. Egoboo is the weak force. Guess which one wins as the customer locale expands in reach and scope?

So would it help X3D quality if the professional Mac talent began to work on X3D content at night when they aren’t working for the moguls? Sure. But meanwhile, the web is the land of opportunity for the hobbyist and the visionary and the deeply irrationally persistent junk yard dogs that just won’t lie down or roll over when told to.

Unless given a bit of petting AND a treat. A pretty enough dog always gets both because dogs will be dogs.

3D is today where the video tape market was when the owners of video stores discovered that storing more tapes on low-rent shelves sold more rentals. Who were the losers? Makers of boutique art films. Who were the winners? Pornographers and major releases. The difference is major releases stayed the same, but porn quickly became much better porn.

That is how the long tail actually works: the best get the point and the rest get the tail.

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