Firms Heat Up Battle for 3-D Market on Internet

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two major multimedia announcements from some of the high-tech industry's giants in California ratcheted up the battle over who will control the move toward 3-D graphics on the Internet.

Mountain View-based Silicon Graphics Inc. fired the first shot, saying it has bought ParaGraph International, a small 3-D Internet software developer, for an undisclosed sum.

Hewlett-Packard Co. of Palo Alto then unveiled a new deal with Microsoft Corp. that will allow its advanced 3-D graphics software to run on Windows. "We think it's a big market for the year 2000 and beyond," said Silicon Graphics Chief Executive Edward McCracken from the company's Cray Research subsidiary offices in Minnesota. "This is part of our strategy to be the leader in 3-D content development on the Web." While Silicon Graphics has held an edge in the graphics market, Hewlett-Packard officials are banging the war drums, claiming their new software, DirectModel, will become the dominant 3-D technology on the market. "This is the first part of a three-step move to take graphics leadership away from Silicon Graphics," said Jan Silverman, director of business development for H-P's technical computing division. The next step, Silverman said, will be to release new high-end graphics substations aimed squarely at Silicon Graphics workstations, known for their high-quality visual effects. Hewlett-Packard and Silicon Graphics will also face competition in the field from hardware makers like Sun Microsystems and IBM, as well as smaller 3-D software developers such as Intergraph Corp. All will be trying to get a piece of what analysts predict will be a huge market for the hardware and software needed to bring interactive, lifelike, real-time images to the Web. "We're very bullish about the 3-D market," said Dan Lavin, an analyst with Dataquest in San Jose. "3-D is the best way to present certain types of information," he said. "It's a very effective way of presenting product information and a very effective way of immersing yourself in another world. …