From IDF, The World of Warcraft + Second Life = 3D Web Future

Rob Enderle

Developer forums like Intel's Developer Forum are a place you can go to learn about the future. The more global and powerful the vendor, the better the view of the future, and in this regard, Microsoft and Intel are likely the most powerful vendors to watch. This isn't to say either is always right, nor that the roadmaps they provide will survive the test of time. But these companies drive the market and have a lot to say about where it is going.


I've observed that the accuracy of related predictions goes up sharply when the companies are executing well and drops like a rock when they aren't. Right now, Intel is executing at near historic levels, suggesting that predictions based on IDF should be relatively accurate. One thing stood out: We are moving to the 3D Web and we are ramping to it much like we ramped to the original Web.


Before I go into more detail on that, I'd like to spend a moment on why presenting well is critical to a company's image in the real world or in a virtual one.


The Importance of Presenting Well Executives often seem to forget that they are the visible face of their companies to outsiders, such as reporters, investors and customers, and also insiders, like employees. When they do a great job, they carry the pride of their companies and set an example of excellence that permeates their companies. Apple's Steve Jobs and HP's Mark Hurd do their companies proud every time they are on stage. I believe a lot of both companies' strong execution comes from the visible example these CEOs make every time they are seen behind a podium.


The worst I've ever seen, by the way, was the first executive presentation by Netscape. One key executive, who was just as unprepared as the others, said "had she been given more than a day to prepare, she would have done better." The event had been booked weeks earlier, but no one evidently told key speakers they would be speaking. It was clear they had no idea why they were there, had no working strategy and apparently didn't talk to each other much. I accurately forecast the death of Netscape based on that one day. I kind of wonder how many concluded the same and helped cause that result.


It amazes me how many companies put executives on stage that likely are otherwise competent but suck in front of audiences. At the AMD Barcelona launch, a number of speakers from a variety of vendors sucked. One looked to be expecting a blindfold before being shot. Dell set the best example in that it had a practiced speaker and Michael Dell in a video. The combination, in my opinion, made the strongest vendor statement at the event.


Through much of this decade, Intel's executives would get up on stage rushed, poorly prepared and communicating a company in trouble. At this IDF, the executives were relaxed and rehearsed, they looked professional and were consistently on message. They conveyed a level of competence and confidence consistent with their execution this year and demonstrate how these things must be done if a company is to successfully execute and convince stakeholders that they can rely on this execution.


This may be the only time key people see the face of Intel and that company did an excellent job of creating an image of competence that will serve the company well over the next year.


AOL Is to the Web What Second Life Is to the 3D Web It's not a typical topic you would expect when talking about a chip vendor, but this was a major portion of the third-day keynote by Intel. I agree that we are looking at the birth of a new Web.


This idea of a 3D Web isn't new; we have been messing with the related concepts since 1995 when I saw prototypical products from several vendors at a time when we were still thinking properties such as AOL were the Web.


What's different? The birth of Second Life and massive multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft showcase what can, technically, be done online to bridge the 2D world that represents the Web today, with the 3D world we live in both physically and virtually.


Justin Rattner, Intel's CTO, made a powerful point when he connected the Second Life of today to the AOL of over a decade ago. It got me thinking about what a difference the new 3D Web he and others are envisioning will mean for our future.


3D Web and a Raid in Second Life If you've seen a vendor presentation in Second Life, you probably have learned that, regardless of the technology, people can bore you to death as effectively in Second Life as in real life. Few have learned how to use it and fall back on the limitations of the real world. It amazes me that in a world where you can do anything, people still feel the need to do PowerPoint presentations.


Think how much fun it would be to raid such a meeting with a team out of World of Warcraft. While it probably wouldn't improve the quality of the presentation, it would be a lot more fun and probably force folks to improve their pitches. I'm not just joking either. Folks are actually working on this.


In business, imagine being able to go to a site that was the virtual representation of a company, where you could talk to a company representative and have the experience mirror more closely a physical visit. Then if you needed another company or resource, you could move to that other company or resource much like you do today on the Web, but without breaking the 3D virtual experience.


Now think of having a virtual home where you could select furniture, appliances and art, and, if you like what you see, be able to click and have it all transition -- for a price -- from that virtual home to your own. Now apply this to your company, your car, your clothing. You would have a much more powerful try-before-you-buy capability and the leveraged cost of a Web site, likely fewer returns and more sales, which equates to better margins.


Getting Ready for the 3D Web People who figured out the Web early gained advantages in terms of Web-based revenue, company perceptions (which lead to stronger company valuations), and significant competitive advantage. On Monday, a new company -- which I can't yet talk about -- is launching that will provide the first blended platform to make an open 3D Web possible.


It might take a few years to figure this out, but that means it is coming and you probably should start thinking about this new virtualized representation for your company. Of course, I'm looking forward to the day when I can avoid traffic and no longer have to drive to events like IDF. I also look forward to showing up at an event as my World of Warcraft Mage and blowing boring presenters off the stage. It is kind of interesting to note that AMD started down the VR path some time ago.


In the end, those who win in this future space will be those that don't limit themselves in virtual words to things they can do in the physical world, but who expand their imaginations to include all the possibilities in a world limited only by that imagination.


If you haven't been in a good Massive Multiplayer game recently, it may be time to wonder in, think about what is possible, and maybe blow some things up, including your preconceptions.

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Sep 21, 2007 8:24 AM The Grid Live The Grid Live  says:
Second Life News for September 21, 2007 The College of Second Knowledge If you are still looking to learn how to do stuff in Second Life, the College of Second Knowledge might just be for you, classes, tutorials, build it yourself kits, and more available at all times. Church island offers ... Reply
Sep 21, 2007 9:06 AM Len Bullard Len Bullard  says:
The fun thing is history puts posh to their ability to drive the future. This is where the web actually is an equalizer when it acts as an frequency modulator for an amplifier. Intel tried very hard to drive 3D on the web first through the Web3DC, then when that didn't work, 3DIF. The web wasn't ready for it. The data pipes are the challenge even today because even if we can push the 3D change messages to the clients and achieve the illusion of real-time, the sound files are still laggards, textures still take time to load, and so on. IBM is also trying to drive as they always have and yes, I'm pretty familiar with the assassin squad having been one for other companies. The Web3DC seems to work around that though, and that is signficant, Rob. As for producting standards, it depends on the setup of the organizations and aggreements. Here is what seems to work:1. Professional standards org to handle the editing, process minding and book keeping. ISO does this well.2. Professional consortium to manage the cats, the agendas and create specifications prior to standardization so the inner wheel runs fast and the outer wheel (Standards) runs predictably.3. Participation agreements. Don't sign up to any standard until you read these. These set the conditions for IP, contributions, and the rules of engagement. Without these, yes the assassins work out in the open. Without these, the open lists get picked over by the first to file patent trolls backed up by the VC vultures.The Web3DC end ran everyone because Neil Trevett was one very sharp guy and the US Navy kept projects going during the doldrums. That held the core together.so4. Excellent leadership with moderate ways and sponsors willing to wait.Standards won't happen because CTOs make announcements. That tends to be FUD anyway. What you want to watch for are the survival genetics of the junkyard dogs who won't stay dead no matter how many times they are declared 'legally, morally, undeniably and indisputably dead'.But this is even more key: where there is real competition, there is a real market. SL and WoW get press but are they really competitors? No. Intel sells chips not games. IBM sells services. Are they competitors? No. BitManagement, Media Machines, Octaga and ParallelGraphics sell real time web 3D systems for VRML and X3D. Are they competitors? You betcha. And they still meet together to invent the future. I don't have to wait. I just build worlds.http://3donthewebcheap.blogspot.comIn the end, it isn't amplitude but frequency that clarifies and creates tomorrow. This isn't philosophy. It is as pure a simplification of information theory as one can make and the best predictor of the future. What the Intel announcement means is there will be more money spent. That's good. We can't wait for that. It means attention but not results. The future is about results and here, content is the only currency. Reply
Sep 21, 2007 10:20 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
Im not really sure we are disagreeing and may actually be arguing different points. Mine is that events like IDF, when compared so similar events by smaller companies, are a more powerful gauge of a collective future because the larger firm is more capable of assuring that future even if, in the end, they dont own that future. This is both because of their resources and their influence. So, the fact that Intel is focused on this will drive money into the effort regardless of whether Intel is the ultimate beneficiary of that investment.I clearly dont know Web3DC, Im incredibly jaded with regard to these efforts though. In the past when I have been more involved (UltraWideband) felt the reasons Intel broke out were good ones and it actually lit a fire under everyone else. It does look like the Web3DC lacks the competition problem that damages other consortiums. Have no idea why Intel exited in this instance (this Intel event was really the first time I really started to think about this subject, realizing Im clearly not as up to speed as I should be on it). Interesting comment on the junkyard dogs, Im going to noodle on that a bit. As far as real competition, I doubt there is any way to avoid that even if we wanted to. And we sure as hell dont want to. I might argue where people are making money we have a real market, competition isnt necessarily requirement just revenue.On amplitude vs. frequency Id argue you generally need both to create the future, and that sometimes the future creates itself without either. Nice chatting, thanks for the comment; Ill spend some time watching Wed3DC going forward. Best of luck! Reply
Sep 21, 2007 1:02 PM Len Bullard Len Bullard  says:
Ah.... events. Yes that is exactly so. That is the "talkin' loud and drawin' a crowd" part of entertainment. Amplitude brings the ears; frequency gets them to remember.The future is always made by these, though. It never creates itself. (See Claude Shannon: page 1, the concept of equally probable choices vs choices with different probabilities).BTW: Web3DC (http://www.web3d.org/)You have too much background to believe in magic. Sometimes you can't see the man behind the curtain. What can happen is many magicians know the same tricks and are all on stage at the same time but only one has the key to Caligari's Cabinet. That is the advantage Intel is after here. As the web is increasingly a means to create, wrap and deliver media (hypermedia is a wrapper), a point of interest will be what happens to the Library of Alexandria as it becomes both library AND Coney Island? Do books become more entertaining or do the rides become duller? Thanks for letting me comment. Great fun! Reply
Sep 21, 2007 2:03 PM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
I don't know the future was being created even before we existed. :) But I hear you with regard to technology. I'll check out Claude Shannon. Thanks for the Web3d link! I think I still believe in magic, at least I hope I do... And man, I sure hope the rides don't get duller... I need more excitment at my age. Welcome been fun for me as well. Reply
Sep 21, 2007 4:39 PM Len Bullard Len Bullard  says:
"The more global and powerful the vendor, the better the view of the future..."Err... no. If you want a view of the future, you find the emergence events and this is post-emergence. Big company events like this are only held once they can safely say what everyone knows.As to Intel involvement, remember Intel was a board member of the Web3DC (X3D, VRML, Collada, etc.). Rankled by the participation agreements that prevented pushing encumbered-IP into the open standard, they resigned and worked their own consortium (see 3DIF). Note something important here: if competition is important to this industry's legitimacy, then the Web3DC people still have the only open competitive standards and technologies. For X3D/VRML, there are multiple clients and server systems available with a push toward virtual world standards for interoperating systems such as H-anim and the Network Sensor. While Koster, Intel, and Rosedale talk this stuff, that group is actually doing it.Back to Intel:The aim is of course, to sell hardware, and any good graphics professional knows the score: more polygons moving at the speed of light need more hardware.The difference in 3D at AOL or the other failed attempts is that AOL had one bit right: a massive MU is a server-farm technology more than a graphics technology. Real-time on the web is not a real thing. Latency == Web.But the need for interoperable web 3D is quite real in the market. The reason is not thrills: it is thrills maintenance. 3D content is high cost content unless you pick your technology and the standards well. I do this stuff for fun but I do know how to do it cheaply until I have to host on an expensive server farm.Where should Intel be going? Away from the data center concepts and into the peer-to-peer standards, or at least into local hosting. The reasons for businesses are easy: don't do private business in public phone booths. There is more but this is a comment, not a blog entry. Reply
Sep 21, 2007 6:52 PM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
My point was that the more global and powerful the vendor the more they can assure the future they foresee. It doesnt mean their analysis is better, weve certainly seen the big guys fail a lot, but, compared to a smaller vendor they are better able to drive that future. Outside of the insiders the 3D web isnt widely known yet and we have very few examples outside of Second Life, which is kind of like AOL was (I actually thought that was a good analogy). Also just because they see a future accurately doesnt mean they will be the primary beneficiary, IBM saw the PC as the future for computing and Netscape envisioned the web but neither benefited as much as others. The 3D web will require a massive upgrade to the network and a lot of work that hasnt yet been done to develop servers and clients that (as you point out) deal with latency and lag. I partially agree on the peer-to-peer stuff and think it will be a blend of peer-to-peer and datacenter that eventually makes this work. I am not convinced we are even close to figuring out what that blend should be. On the Open Standards stuff I partially agree here as well. The problem with standards bodies is they typically dont move very fast and get bogged down by competing members who are more interested in making sure competitors dont gain advantage than they are in actually making progress. (IBM actually has near formal training in this behavior as I received that training myself). Sometimes large vendors, and you are correct Intel does this often, get frustrated and do their own thing and become a core standards holder, but it gets the job done. Personally I dont care that much for standards bodies because I hate the related politics but if they can work agree they can be the best path (the can work part, in my experience, can be the big problem though). The good news is that Intel is bringing a focus on this and we will likely get this sooner as a result. I dont know about you, but I can hardly wait. Reply
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Sep 25, 2007 4:30 PM Len Bullard Len Bullard  says:
Another force not discussed much once out of academia IS academia. Here is a recent U of NODAK archaeology project using X3D/VRML.http://onaslant.ndsu.edu/In Europe, VRML has never been considered a dead or obsolete technology. Universities teach it, research institutes use it, and the best 3D browser vendors are there. This is the bifurcation: the server-farm centric VR worlds for MU are essentially closed boxes talking about standards but actually looking for IP leverage to pay off the VC vig. They need big hits but like anyone who opens a nightclub on a lonely road can tell you, once they are driving the traffic there, a competitor opens across the street. Then the club fires begin. On the other fork, you find the standalone-non-MU worlds using open free technology such as X3D/VRML. They are building research, visualization and even art applications and they are building them in smaller niches without the big publicity machine but they are spreading fast and filling the niches that are too expensive or too laborious to fill with designs from Electric Sheep for SL. They are fast becoming the cockroaches in the walls of the metaverse: they've always been there and they multiply fast, they work in community and they can't be wiped out. So now the question is one of technical evolution. Will big money worlds or public standards evolve faster?1. Intel talks standards but they are devolving toward Collada. That's good but they want to sell iron, not own 3D software.2. IBM talks standards but they are noodling and don't have a strategy for products or services in this market space. Palimpsano needs to quickly assess what he is getting for his money.3. WoW, SL and Areae talk standards and they have software products of different types. Each is in a different market and really have little incentive to create interworld objects (think portable branded identity-laden avatars). They are the server-farm vendors but....4. MS Virtual Earth and Google Earth are the quiet but very large server farm vendors who intend to create world models that are truly reality-based VR (avatars with an accurate map).How many standards and of what domains does it take to wrap all of those business models? What service compositions have to be offered? What is the rate of change (eg, content churn) that can be afforded?This will be a fun market to watch. It really is a sea change but almost reminiscent of the very earliest days of commercial services to airline reservation systems in scale, complexity, competition and the need to interoperate. The need to reduce the complexity to ensure interoperation also reduces the market advantages of owning the system. It becomes a cost to do business. Reply
Oct 8, 2007 12:30 PM Michael Leppan Michael Leppan  says:
Please tell me when you really think 3d web will become a reality? Reply
Oct 8, 2007 4:28 PM len len  says:
@Michael: When you can take the same avatar and move between MS Virtual Earth and Google Virtual Earth, acquire all privileges you are authorized for (impersonate()) and never notice that you have changed vendor sites.That part is actually easy. The contentious part is this: 3D models take time and effort. Today businesses like SceneCaster rely on the donated content to the Google Warehouse. Practically speaking, it is hard work for any individual to make a 3D world without pre-existing libraries. The deal where one grants Google an unlimited distribution license for the content in exchange for the tool is modern sharecropping. The better deal for the artists is as in X3D/VRML where if one builds really good content, multiple vendors for the standard language compete to render it best. The power shifts to the content makers at that point. That is precisely the change the big server farm suppliers want to prevent, but it is inevitable.At that point, you will see a 3D web because 3D will become just another medium in the multi-media grid. The media grid is what this is really all about. Reply

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