Hi Andreas, thanks for your input, I recognize your name from my days on the maxwell forum (we are all ex-NL people here).
According to my measurements, bella can significantly outperform maxwell and blender on cpu at this point (unlike mw which has hardly improved in years, except by adding gpu, we have roughly doubled performance of our cpu algorithms over the past year), and that is before we get to the new hybrid cpu/gpu solver that Oscar has been working on (some discussion of that here). I have not directly compared with keyshot, but would guess that bella may be faster in some situations, and slower in others, as will often be the case when comparing different technologies, with different strengths.
Also discussed in that thread are new material types we are currently working on; especially relevant to this discussion, a super-simple PBR style material that will make it ridiculously easy to work with materials from places like https://cc0textures.com. Those particular materials are public domain, so we could hypothetically bundle some of the best, but think it would be interesting to contact them (and others) to see about an arrangement to let bella users browse and use materials directly without separate download.
Regarding your comments about having a 3d platform-agnostic application to work from, while our GUI can indeed import several formats, I would not yet call it a great solution for working from scratch with a model, as it is still primarily intended for rendering from a plugin. However, we will continue to work on it over time. I want to see how smooth the interaction can get with Oscar’s new solver, at which point we’ll know if we should invest time in adding an opengl-style viewport, or to extend the rendered view with object-selection, and so forth.
Even if so, though, it is probably a bit too complex & fiddly for the audience you are referring to, so maybe we could entertain the idea of building something far simpler, which hides many seldom-used details.
Thanks again for your input, it is very valuable to us to get this kind of feedback.