Google buys @Last, makers of SketchUp, a 3D authoring tool that’s had glowing reviews for its ease of use and which has been featured on this blog before. (Sept 9: “Sketchup and Google snuggle up” (which is where the affair must have started); Sept 12: List of authoring tools; Oct 12: Plugin for Google Earth PC released; Jan 12: Plugin for Google EarthMac released).
Burning questions for which there aren’t answers yet: Will SketchUp be integrated into Google Earth or continue to exist as a separate application? What will the pricing be like? (Currently it’s ‚Ç¨469/$495 (
what is it in US dollars, BTW? I can’t tell from Sweden.)) Will Google make a subset of the tools free, much like what it did when it bought Keyhole’s Earth and relaunched a pay product as a free version with upgrades to Plus and Pro?
SketchUp has a Mac version too, which makes it a bit of a rarity in the CAD world. This of course mean that Google can continue to offer feature parity for whatever Google Earth/Sketchup solution it comes out with.
It’s occured to me that Google bought something more than a virtual construction set. Sketchup also supports a deft set of file formats. From the readme:
SketchUp supports import of vector files such as AutoCAD 2006, 2005, 2004, 2002, and earlier DWG and DXF files as well as 3DS and DEM files. SketchUp also imports image files such as BMP, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and TGA. SketchUp exports DWG and DXF from release 12 to 2006 as well as 3D Studio .3DS, VRML, and OBJ. Raster file exports include the Piranesi Epix formats in addition to the above image file formats. For 2D vector applications, SketchUp exports .EPS and PDF. For animators, SketchUp for Windows exports AVI while SketchUp for Mac OS X exports QuickTime.
BTW, you can download a free trial of SketchUp that gives you 8 hours of evaluation usage and a comprehensive 3D tutorial. You might as well get started, as you _will_ be using this software before long to populate Google’s Earth.
[Update 17:48 UTC: Google now also gains a ESRI Shapefile importer and the ability to export Sketchup Files as 3D objects and symbology for some ArcGIS products using these plugins.]