3ds Max v8 were out for a while. But, I have never tried that yet. And so, I visited to Audodesk Japan site after a long time today, and found some changes. At first, we can download the trial edition from that site. We had to apply for trial CD-ROM at version 7... Next, version 8 brings really excellent new features. Version 8 lists up 20 features in the site, which contains features of extensions. In other words, Autodesk stopped offering more extensions for profit as well as CharactorStudio.
For 3ds Max, there is a interesting product which is called "e-kaisetsu". This is video tutorials of various software for beginners. I thought once that it has no value. But, it's economy of time. Products for 3ds Max is two kinds. One of them covers version 7 for beginners. Another one covers new features only in version 8. This is interesting approach. This product charges 4,000 JPY for the explanation of new features. It's just pure cost for economy of time.
BTW, new version of 3ds Max has gotten more powerful functions about normal mapping. And users in Japan came to notice ZBrush for normal map. ZBrush wasn't popular enough in Japan. But, it starts to become popular as normal mapping tools recently. ZBrushCentral that is the learning center for ZBrush recommends using 3ds Max with ZBrush. The tutorial that is called "ZBrush normal maps and 3dsmax v8" might be declarations of victory at normal mapping.