Is Microsoft Headed For 3pointD?

Microsoft’s Robert Scoble dropped in on the second day of the Metaverse Roadmap to hang out and observe the proceedings — and give John Swords and me a podcast interview, along with his son Patrick, that will soon be up on The Metaverse Sessions. We chatted for a while after the interview, and mentioned an idea that had been tossed around at the summit: that Microsoft would eventually get into virtual worlds and/or 3D Web technology in a big way. Turns out we weren’t as far off as one might think.

Scoble says Microsoft is looking at the 3pointD world, though they want to bring their users along slowly. They’re starting now, however, with Windows Vista and a little-remarked feature of the Windows Presentation Foundation. According to the Microsoft Web site:

The Windows Presentation Foundation framework delivers solutions for media, user interface design, and documents that go well beyond what developers have today. . . . Central to the framework are controls for shapes, documents, images, video, animation, 3D and “panels” in which to place controls and content. These “primitives” provide the building blocks for developing next-generation user experiences.

The 3D features, as Scoble described it, consists of the ability to generate 3D objects and “paint” a browser or application window onto them. The objects could then be stretched, rotated or otherwise manipulated to create various effects. It’s only a matter of time before someone finds a cool use for it, I’m sure.

While the 3D feature of the clumsily named Presentation Foundation is only mildly fascinating in itself, it’s the fact that Microsoft is interested in 3D at all that’s notable. Scoble was very impressed by the demos of the Open Croquet system that were being done at the summit (as was I), and I can only imagine what gears were clicking over in his head as to what Microsoft might do with a polished version of a tool like Croquet (which is not yet quite as end-user friendly as it needs to be). I imagine Microsoft will move slowly and gingerly into 3pointD space, but once they do decide to make a strong move, it will probably be a swift and a big one — though not necessarily successful. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing what developers come up with for Vista.

Note also that the building blocks Vista makes available for building cool new interfaces with are called “primitives,” just like in Second Life.

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  1. I’ve long believed MS was interested in virtual worlds. There is too much evidence supporting this … including the recent announcement regarding UGS.

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