Many lessons can be learned from the development of the small, rather competent and stable nurbs-modelling program Rhinoceros.
In it's beta-stage it was free for everyone to download and use. The users could report bugs and add suggestions directly to the programmers. After (as good as) all flaws were corrected version 1.0 was released at a reasonable price.
Rhino is about the only program that specializes in nurbs and on most fronts it does it better than any of the big render-packages like: Maya, MAX, Lightwave and Cinema 4d. Still it's not precise enough to be used as basis for production; its models are not suitable for CNC-milling.
So Rhino is not destined for real bigness but it's an excellent tool for hobbyists building props for rendering purposes or those who fancy modeling their own surfboard for instance, but the method of development remains to be very interesting. Currently a new product is under development using a similar strategy: DAZ|Studio . It’s an alternative to the disastrous Poser 5 from Curios Labs.
The main problem with Poser 5 was that too many promises were made to the very big user-community established with Poser 4. Promises like dynamic hair and cloth with collision detection were simply too big for Curios Labs. After the release of two major patches for P5 these features does still not function in accordance with the basic philosophy of Poser: Easy to use and stableness. Lots of anger and frustration was generated in the community when these features turned out to virtually useless. After all the efforts of Curios Lab P5 is only a P4 with a decent renderengine.
From the press release of DAZ|Studio: “It is crucial that DAZ|Studio be built upon a completely solid foundation before focusing on additional functionality and features. DAZ|Studio is modular in nature, therefore advanced functionality will be offered as modules that allow the end-user to customize the software according to his or her own need and budget.”
The new product from DAZ seems to aim at the right place. I am very curios what will happen to this title!