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Alias Talks Maya Unlimited for Mac OS X

A Q&A with Maya Product Marketing Manager Rob Hoffmann By Dave Nagel
It was three years ago next month that Alias first previewed its Maya Complete 3D software running on Mac OS X, an event that, to many, heralded the beginning of the "Unix dividend" for Apple's new operating system, attracting developers who had never and probably would never have brought their software to the Mac platform otherwise. The result was not only the availability of another high-end 3D package for the Mac, but credibility for the platform as a serious production tool, the kind of credibility that could only have come from the conversion of a major and respected developer like Alias.

From the beginning, one thing was clear about Maya for Mac OS X: This was an experiment that would determine the viability of the Mac for Alias and for other developers sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what would happen. The initial Mac port of Maya, at version 3.5, was half a release behind its Linux, Windows and Irix counterparts; version 4.0 on the Mac was skipped altogether; and it would be a year after the launch of Maya for Mac OS X that the Mac port would finally find parity with versions on other platforms at version 4.5.

Nevertheless, from the early stages of its release, it was obvious that the experiment was going to be a success. Alias reported overwhelming sales of Maya Complete for the Mac from day 1, and, over the last few years, these Mac sales have averaged out to nearly 30 percent of total Maya Complete sales in North America and about 20 percent globally. In other words, Maya's here to stay. Recognizing this, Alias has maintained version and feature parity between Mac OS X and other platforms ever since the release of version 4.5. And the latest 6.0 release saw Maya's conversion to a full Mach-O application. Now, to top it all off, Alias has finally announced Maya Unlimited for Mac OS X.

Maya Unlimited builds on the features of Maya Complete to offer a wide range of additional features, including Maya Hair, with dynamic curve simulation, styling (such as braids and curls), and integration with the Maya dynamics engine; Maya Cloth for cloth simulations; Maya Fur; Maya Fluid Effects for near-real-time fluid simulations; and Maya Live, a matchmoving feature that includes a 2D tracker and interactive root frame solver. Lie Maya Complete, Maya Unlimited debuts as a Mach-O application, allowing plugin developers to use Apple's Xcode for development; and it includes AppleScript support for MEL, Quartz rendering for the UI and integration of QuickTime.

Maya Fluid Effects

But this news, once again, is more than just a product announcement. Maya Unlimited is targeted to a different market from that of Maya Complete. It's a higher-end product, one that's specialized and one that required considerable investment in development. So it's both a further commitment by Alias to the Mac platform and yet another acknowledgment of the Mac's viability as a high-end workstation.

I had a chance to speak with Rob Hoffmann, senior Maya product marketing manager at Alias, about Maya Unlimited for Mac OS X, about the Mac's role in Maya's development and about the future of the platform for high-end 3D.

DAVID NAGEL: Maya Unlimited for Mac OS X is obviously something users have been waiting for since the initial release of Maya for Mac OS X, and undoubtedly Alias has been receiving a steady stream of requests for this from the very beginning. Why now? Is it changes in the user base or changes in the hardware available? A combination of factors?

ROB HOFFMANN: First of all, let me start by saying that were thrilled to bring Maya Unlimited to the Mac community. There have been increasing requests from the community to provide them with this option and by late this summer, the software will be available to purchase.

The decision to bring Maya Unlimited to the Mac at this time was driven primarily by the peak in customer requests. The release of the G5 certainly is a great advantage to Mac users who require additional power and Maya Unlimited customers will have a strong combination with the G5 and Maya Unlimited, but that wasnt one of the motivating factors for Alias.

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