This turned up in my email today, it's Duncan Brimsmead's blog about some of the awesome new tools in Maya 2011.
Most of it is do-able with Houdini (I'm refering to fluids) - but maybe not out of the box. Well maybe it is as I haven't been keeping up with the latest and greatest from Side FX's brain box.
One really interesting thing is the resizable fluid box. Nothing new - I think FumeFX has it a long time ago. Checking in the Gas microsolvers in DOPs and there is a very interesting Gas Resize Fluid DOP, as well as a Gas Resize Field DOP. The Resize Fluid DOP actually is a HDA that encapsulates the Resize Field DOP, probably to allow it to adjust all the fields in the fluid (density, velocity, etc)
Just thinking off my head, it will probably be possible to read in the density information, scatter points on it, use a bounding box, expand the bounding box by a certain amount, then use it as the input for the gas resize dop.
Initial tests just for the gas resize dop seems very positive, if I get time this is something to look at as it'll drastically reduce the memory footprint and sim time required for smoke sims.