The first real 3d modeling tool I used was one of the earlier Windows versions of trueSpace. While I was never impressed with the rendering engine back then (it has improved over the years) I really cut my teeth on modeling using that tool. The workspace was somewhat unique as far as modeling tools goes, encouraging a more immersive 3d editing experience vs. the usual 3-view approach.
Caligari, the makers of trueSpace, were just purchased by Microsoft. They are to become part of the Virtual Earth team. While I'm not sure what that does to the general purpose 3d modeling tools, I hope the 3d modeling tools continue on and eventually become part of the Expression product line, or otherwise become available to designers and developers
Caligari always struggled with positioning themselves against the heavyweights in the 3d modeling and animation space. While trueSpace had some fairly advanced modeling tools earlier than other companies, they just never seemed to make that leap into the mainstream. Caligari experimented with several different unique versions of their tools, targeted at different vertical uses, as well as some semi-related products (what ever happened with iSpace?). For a while, I think they really lost focus, and the tools suffered (that's when I bailed on them and moved on to other tools)
Eventually, Caligari decided to refocus to an online-oriented model. In fact, their mission statement now reads "Caligari's mission is to develop collaborative 3D technology that enables participants to learn, work and play online."
Since then, their tools have gotten better, and their render has vastly improved. It could be worth revisiting that tool.
I wonder if trueSpace will show up on MSDN? (please, please!) :)