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  Architosh Staff ([email protected])


Apple's Raycer buy: Advanced 3D market targeted next?

4 Nov 99.

Apple is supposedly in the final stages of purchasing Raycer Graphics, a graphics chip designer for the workstation market. Motives for the acquisition are generating a number of theories -- we'll get to those in a moment -- but one levelheaded possibility includes producing future multiprocessor G4 workstations with "best of class" graphics abilities integrated onto the future Apple UMA motherboards. Other items in the recent past may support this idea, including Apple's sudden cancellation from the last SIGGRAPH show in Los Angeles this year.

Apple's Next Moves

Long before Windows NT, Apple was the dominant platform in the advanced 3D marketplace for personal computers. Short of UNIX-based workstations costing several thousand dollars more than even Apple's most expensive offerings -- and sporting MIPS and other high-end RISC processors --what used to be the best way to do advanced 3D graphics at the next level down was simply to go Macintosh all the way! Programs like Pixar's RenderMan, Presenter 3D, Scultp 3D, LightWave 3D and EIAS have long been Mac mainstays in the advanced 3D world, but many don't exist anymore on the Macintosh, have moved over to Windows NT and/or UNIX exclusively, or have vanished altogether. While there still exist many very excellent 3D applications for the Macintosh, many more have moved on towards Windows and Windows NT, and with that move so goes the high-end dollars that Apple used to obtain for their best machines.

However, things are beginning to change and it appears that Apple is once again interested in capturing the top spot in the advanced 3D market segment. The potential acquisition of Raycer Graphics is one more move that supports this theory. Here are some other trends supporting that theory:

  • Overall developer interest in the Mac is prompting 3D developers to come back to Macintosh.
  • Macintosh CAD is showing nascent signs of a renaissance.
  • New 3D applications are supporting the Macintosh as well as Windows and/or UNIX's.
  • OpenGL has developers interested in producing cross-platform 3D and CAD apps.
  • Two key 3D modeling kernels continue strong support of the Macintosh.
  • G3 and the new G4 processor with AltiVec has developers very interested, indeed.
  • Pixar's RenderMan is rumored to be in the works for Mac OS X.
  • Autocad 2000 is rumored to be in the works for Mac OS X.
  • Apple is committed to OpenGL support with G4 AltiVec enhancements.
  • Apple is rumored to be producing multiprocessor G4 workstations for early 2000.
  • Apple's Mac OS X is on target for delivery in 2000, definitely!

Raycer Graphics and Apple's Motivations

Many are wondering why Apple may be interested in Raycer Graphics. Raycer's ambitions have been to make high-end 3D graphics for workstations and eventually bring this technology down to personal computers. This is exactly the type of technology evolution that could assist Apple in retaking it position in the advanced 3D graphics market again for personal computers.

The company has yet to bring a product to market but looks good on paper to industry experts. Raycer has been competing in an overcrowded market, with at least ten other companies competing in the high-end 3D market. Apple, no doubt, does not want to get into the graphics chip market, one of the most overcrowded fields in technology.

Apple industry observer, Lou Mazzuchelli, an analyst with Gerard, Klauer Mattison, said, " Apple lately has launched on a strategy to increase its outside investing. The company's investment in Web broadcaster Akamai, for instance, has exploded with that company's torrid IPO."

Others ideas expressed by the MacObserver suggest that Apple may want Raycer Graphic's technologies for making a chipset in an upcoming Apple handheld. Arguing that since Steve Jobs has been back at Apple, "best-of-class" screens have been a high priority on all of Apple's mobile products and Raycer's technologies may help Apple in this area with a future Apple handheld. While many reasons -- time-to-market being primarily one of them -- suggest that Apple may indeed by producing an Apple handheld that doesn't run a licensed OS (like Palm's OS) there are other areas where Apple could apply Raycer's chip technologies, including future Apple Internet appliances and game stations, as well as Internet routers and home networking technologies.

More likely, Apple's interest in Raycer's graphics chipset technologies are centered on Apple's core markets and the products it makes for them: machines for design and publishing and "best-of-class" consumer computing devices.

Chief Technologist and Patent Portfolio in Apple's Eye

Jermome Duluk, Raycer's chief technology officer, and the patent portfolio may be Apple's only interest in this acquisition (at this point). Apple may be really interested in Jermome Duluk and his Raycer design team and its patent portfolio. If that's the case, as C/Net has expressed, getting Jermome Duluk may be the highest headhunters fee ever paid. Terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed, but one source valued Raycer Graphics at $20 million.

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