iRhino: Quick update with Bob McNeel
If there's an organisation in the world of Product Development Technology that consistently does intriguing things, long before the others even get close, its McNeel & Associates. Founded in 1980, McNeel is a privately-held, employee-owned company with sales and support offices and affiliates across the globe.
When the company started out developing the Rhinoceros system was in public beta for four years or so, gather numbers of users (in the order of 100,000s). When the Beta ended and commercialisation began, it had a userbase that still outstrips most 3d modelling systems, one that had come to rely on it in their daily working processes. The clever bit was the pricing. Rhino has always been priced relatively low in comparison to other systems that do similar things, so it didn't take a lot to it was off to a good start - a user base that's become reliant on a product, then sell them that product at a much lower price than anyone else can.
Two years ago, at an educational event in Mexico, Bob McNeel, CEO of the company, stood up and announced that the company was bringing Rhinoceros to the Mac platform. The work had been underway for some time and almost immediately available at the website (which is www.irhino3d.com) for beta test. That beta is still underway, it's open to anyone, even for commerical use. You register, get your link and download. Install it and away it goes. It'll have an expiration date on it, but a new release comes out long before your license does (and even if it does, you just get the download and install again). I shot Bob some questions over to find out how things were going - and of course, the first question is, why now?
Bob McNeel: Why not? Actually it has been a market we have been watching for many years. The trick was finding someone that was both a killer OS X and killer Windows programmer. When Marlin showed up and was ready to start on the project we gave him the green light.
What potential market share do you think the mac platform has with the various industry sectors Rhino is working within?
No idea. Well, actually we have a good idea from the WIP (Work in Progress) users what industries they are in, but WIP/Beta users are often very different from the people that actually buy.How is the development process going?
As expected. We are in no hurry. There are no unexpected bottlenecks.What stage are you at?
The stages are:What are the challenges you’re facing/issues that you’re seeing?
Currently, we are about 80% of Stage 1.
- Core functionality with a prototype U/I.
- OS X U/I design and development
- SDK and macro/scripting language
OS X U/I design and development will be something completely new for us. Apple has offered to help. We really have no idea how long this will take. Our goal is to have a real OS X application.Are you going to implement multi-touch support and how?
We expect Rhino OS X will feel very different from Rhino for Windows. Also, the SDK and marco/scripting language is all new work. Currently we use all the of the standard Windows tools like VBScript, .NET, C#, etc.
None of these are available for OS X, but there is a very rich set of development tools… just completely different. All the plug-ins will have to be rewritten. Not just ours but all 3rd party products. Many will not be ported, but hopefully there will be some new ones that are OS X only.
I think it is already in. Just a few things that work as expected.Any idea of a commercialization timeline?
Sometime after Rhino 5 ships. I expect it will be a couple of years. Hopefully we will already have more than 100,000 users by then.What's the ultimate goal?:
Most important. Our goal is a real OS X application that OS X users love… not a weird Windows port.Final Thoughts:
iRhino or Rhino OS X is intriguing compared to some of the complex shape description and surfacing based tools coming on stream now. Firstly, it runs on the most basic of hardware and runs very well. I've been using it, without issue at all in terms of stability, on a first generation MacBook Air - which has all the graphics processing of a chocolate bar. That can't be said of other tools at all.
There's absolutely no doubt that this system will be released and made commercially available only when its reach a state of near perfection in terms of linking into the OS X UI and interaction methods. How its being developed, in a public manner, with constant consultation with users from Rhino's wide spectrum of users is fascinating. But ultimately, it's the fact that McNeel that's developing this tool means it'll be something special, fairly priced across the globe and it'll work. I've just got updated and I'll put together some thoughts in the next few weeks to give you an idea of what it can do.
Sign up now and get working www.irhino3d.com. After all, it's free. For a good long while yet.