Matt Stachoni wrote me his views on the googlization of SketchUp:
So, the CAD and 3D visualization world was bamboozled this week with the question, "Why on Earth did Google buy SketchUp?"
Let's see: MegaCorp company with a global presence, hundreds of employees and bazillions of dollars in the bank buys a little-known funky company that makes some decent + cheap software, which incidentally has almost nothing to do with MegaCorp's primary line of business.
Hm. Has kind of a familiar ring to it. Of course, we have to ask - in those instances where something like this has happened, whatever became of the tiny company's aforementioned cool software?
Yeah, I don't know either.
I guess the only reasonable answer to the "Why" question is: Why not? Google has money to burn, and SketchUp is a great product that, I assume, makes money for its publisher. And, just like Microsoft and Autodesk, Google is constantly on the lookout for business investment oppertunities - however weird they may be (*cough* HyperChem *cough*) - as a way to keep its liquid assets working for its investors.
Of course, my inner sneaky suspicion is simply that someone high up at Google was just bored one day.
Sure, Google Earth is cool. We all use it to check out three-year-old satellite photos of our subdivisions, look for hidden military bases, and maybe get directions to Grandma's house. CNN likes to play with it when a natural disaster hits. There are probably some forward thinking companies out there using it as a Web service of sorts, interfacing with their particular in-house business apps for [insert reason here]. Whatever.
And, SketchUp's GE plugin gained fame with the AEC crowd when it enabled a two-way link to all that data, allowing you to plop your architectural models into instant, at least decent, and above all CHEAP context. That's huge. Something the AEC industry has not been able to do, without an expensive copy of Map or Arcview on your desk and the requisite resident GIS geek to run it. Of course, there's no reason why Autodesk couldn't have made the same dopey plugin for VIZ or max, except possibly for a lack of imagination.
Below the Radar, indeed!
But is a 3.5MB freely downloadable plugin the reason to buy a whole company? I don't think so, but I don't run megahuge software companies for a living either. But, if anything, it does give people a chance to voice some incredibly flawed logic on the subject.
Not sure who these "millions of users" [mentioned by Randall Newton at AECnews.com] are who are going to purchase a $400 program and learn to model in 3D, just so they can get their house into Google Earth. Heck, even I'm not going do that, and already I own the program and know how to use it.
And I'm certainly not going to add in any "relevent metadata," whatever that is. The only important "relevant" thing I can think of in my house is what bad things the cats are doing when I'm at work. I already know my lawn's a mess -- the rest of the world does not. And that's a good thing.
And, it's important to remember that the plugin doesn't put anything back into Google Earth Proper. It just creates a composite KMZ file which composites your 3D masterpiece onto a GE backdrop. To get into Google Earth, someone has to at the very least VALIDATE the 3D data.
And I doubt Google is going to look forward to reviewing "millions" of 3D models like this:download.sketchup.com/downloads/downloads/plugins/google/Area_51.kmz
So, call me a curmudgeon. Will cool things happen from this? Sure; at the very least, the makers of SketchUp have a swell revenue stream and can add more cool things, which helps keep upgrade costs to me low. Add possibly tighter GE integration, some new cooler plugins, and it's all good.
But, for people with heady thoughts of everything-all-3D-all-the-time, remember that Google Earth is not Wikipedia - if it was, I would alter it so my commute takes only 5 minutes. SketchUp is not free open source software; it has been decided that SketchUp will still cost money. SketchUp doesn't do BIM. And AEC viz artists are not selfless nerds looking to create a better Google Earth just because it's cool and they can't get dates anyway. They are simply looking for an easier way to get something decent to show an impatient client.