Shares of Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS) spiked on Wednesday after Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced that Windows 8 will support 3D printing. The company’s upcoming revision to Windows 8 — Windows 8.1 — includes an API that allows app developers to support 3D printers from MakerBot.
Given that Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS) just acquired MakerBot, that’s definitely bullish for the company’s prospects. But more generally, Microsoft’s support of 3D printing is a good sign for the emerging technology.
Stratasys’ acquisition of MakerBot
Last week, Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS) acquired MakerBot in a stock-for-stock deal. TechCrunch wrote that the combined company would likely “dominate [the] 3D printing industry.”
Until adding MakerBot, Stratasys’ business was mostly confined to the industrial world. As the company notes in its most recent 10K filing, it’s primarily involved in selling 3D printers to businesses for the purpose of creating physical models.
This contrasts with MakerBot, whose business is aimed at the consumer. Its Replicator 2 is sold directly on the company’s website, and advertised as being a great tool for “engineers at heart.” It costs just $2200.
From hobbyist toy to mainstream appliance?
But although 3D printing has grown in popularity, it still largely remains a market of hobbyists. That’s where Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) could come in.
Right now, most people probably have no use for a 3D printer in their home. You might be inclined to purchase a Replicator 2 only if you’re the type of person who has the time and skill to design things — or if you happen to like some of the designs available on Thingverse.
But Windows support could change that. It’s hard to predict how the market will evolve, but app developers could create software for Windows 8 that simplifies the process of designing and sharing 3D models.
At any rate, it suggests that the guys in Redmond believe enough in 3D printing to spend time incorporating it into Windows.
Could it give Windows an advantage?
Support for 3D printing could actually prove to be an advantage for Microsoft down the line. At least for now, neither Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) nor Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has incorporated 3D printing into their respective operating systems.
Any developer interested in creating 3D printing software (and any users interested in that software) might be inclined to choose Windows over a rival operating system.