Here’s a short interview with Rory Dooley, president of 3DConnexion. I sent him some questions on the occasion of the launch of their new 3D motion controller, the SpaceNavigator, aimed at the consumer market (and reviewed here.) Below the fold, I ask him about 3D operating systems, the pricing model and the upcoming software development kits.
Ogle Earth: How come nobody’s made a cheap one of these before? Are they more expensive to make than mice? Has the potential market been too small?
Rory Dooley: These products are more expensive to make than mice — part of that is the mouse has benefited from huge volumes (>> 1 billion) whereas 3D navigation devices are still under 1 million units produced. The other side is that the technology requires more components than a standard mouse which of course adds costs.
The market up to now has also been very small but that’s also the chicken and egg problem — if the price is too expensive, it stops the technology/product getting adopted and used elsewhere — sometimes a risk has to be taken underpinned by our belief that the value proposition we have will be adopted by more and more people.
The reason today to offer a viable entry level product is also that the application space has changed. Not only can you download applications such as Google SketchUp and Google Earth for free, even CAD designers can access trial versions for free of popular apps such as Autodesk Inventor (trial version available on a six month license). We are also moving beyond 3D as a design tool and more and more towards 3D visualization which is a much larger audience. (Google Earth is the ultimate visualization app, but things like Adobe 3D are going to get adopted as well.)
OE: Having it on my desk makes me want to navigate through my operating system — OSes are getting so 3D. Any chances of drivers for Vista and OS X that makes it behave like a 3D mouse?
RD: Great question — how to make it more relevant to your everyday computing environment. We are bringing out a developer kit in January for windows and a little later for Mac (see below) and we are also experimenting ourselves with how we can do more than what we are just offering with the 3Dconnexion picture viewer — also we’d like to see the user community provide ideas and feedback and maybe thru our developer kit some actual implementations.
OE: Your variable price model for home and business use, based on trust: That’s been applied to software before, but never, to my knowledge, to a peripheral. Is this an experiment, or do you have marketing data behind you? And who is subsidizing who among 3D Connexion, pros and amateurs?
RD: I cannot say we have data other than we want the entry level product to become an individual choice versus a corporate IT buy. Clearly a large part of the cost of our business model is the cost of supporting all the applications we support (top 3D CAD and 3D DCC [Digital Content Creation] apps) as well as all the operating systems for the corporate environment (HP-UX, IBM AIX, solaris, Windows, Linux etc.). The individual at home is typically running windows or OS X and at most will be running a few 3D apps — so we don’t want the individual bearing the cost of the corporate development work we undertake. We do feel strongly if the individual brings the device to their workplace that the company should pay the money for the upgrade but as you point out it’s based on trust. We don’t want under any circumstances people to worry about the inherent functionality of the product.
OE: Can you give us some details on the upcoming SDKs? ETA, which OS…
RD: Yes — we are working on a Mac driver which we hope to show in early January — initially for SketchUp and with support from Google a little later on Earth. We are also targeting some of the popular DCC apps on the Mac (Maya etc.)
Also by the end of January, we are releasing our PC developer kit which we hope will receive support from various software vendors and individuals — and will take the product to places we have never thought of! Later in the first calendar quarter we will do the same for the Mac.