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11 Oct 2010

About AutoCAD for Mac, Linux, clouds and competitors

Interview with Miikka Arala, EMEA Industry and Marketing Development Manager at Autodesk

A phone conversation by Vladimir Malukh with Miikka Arala, EMEA Industry and Marketing Development Manager at Autodesk

1. Among traditional AutoCAD installations, Autodesk offers test-drive version via Project Twitch. Can we expect Project Twitch evolving to truly commercial service? If yes – when? When Project Twitch will be accessible for non US and Canada users?

Well, note that I’m not able to tell you quite exact information due our legal regulations. However I’ll try to give you some picture of Twitch. First of all now it is experimental project, we learn with it how cloud technology is demanded by our customers, how they prefer to use it, what are possible differences from traditional way of software delivery. We’d like to test it in conditions with good connection, which is present in North America.

Talking about its future of commercial service – without telling the date, surely it would happen. There are a lot of on-line SaaS products on the market already, and I can’t see a reason why CAD can’t and shouldn’t be given this way too. It just must be done properly, with good quality and reliability of the service. So, Twitch is one of the ways to achieve this goal.

2. AutoCAD 2010 introduced parametric capabilities for 2D drawings: is 3D parameterization coming for AutoCAD users?

Again, not all can be said publically yet. While 2D parameterization in AutoCAD dramatically increased productivity we’re not sure about the same result in 3D case. I wouldn't say that we do not expect benefits with 3D. In fact, AutoCAD is more and more 3D. However, we must evaluate each and every function because the product is used by millions and hence we must strike a balance between popular demand and individual needs. Also – we don’t see much of demand for parametric 3D from customers’ side. And, there is another one issue which we have to keep in mind – there is reach parametric functionality in other Autodesk products like Inventor and Revit, thus there is no point to compete them.

3. Since AutoCAD is a platform for quite a few 3D vertical applications like Civil 3D, Plant 3D, Map 3D – is direct modeling technology similar to Inventor Fusion likely to be introduced as an AutoCAD built-in feature?

Here in Autodesk we do work not in the way what we think, but in the way what our customers need and demand from us. So far, since they aren’t asking as for that – we’re not pushing all possible technologies into the product. AutoCAD has become quite stable and functionally rich platform, evolving from the end-user tool. We see the near future of AutoCAD as evolutional development, consistent improvement of existing functionality.

4. Will AutoCAD versions for Windows and Mac have equal functionality sooner or later?

It needs to be said, that AutoCAD for Windows and Mac are not the same software. By making Mac version we’ve used just little bits of PC code, so it has been basically written from the scratch. There are quite a few reasons for that, Mac user interface differs from Windows one quite significantly – there are many features that exist on Mac but doesn’t on Windows and vice versa. So in some respects Mac and Windows versions will always have differences, while keeping equal basic functionality.

5. What about AutoCAD for Linux?

Not saying firm plans, but if we see strong demand from the market, financial advantages for our customers – why not? It must be added that the initial disclaimer in the very beginning of this interview applies. This is not a statement on our current or future production pipeline.

6. Do people really need native solutions for Mac/Linux? Probably, the future CAD solutions should be cloud-based?

Yes, I think so – each platform has its own features, which are important for users, therefore software shall support them. This is the present situation. Obviously in the future when cloud technology will be more widely available in CAD market some user group will prefer platform-independent solutions. I think both approaches - native and cloud will coexist and users will have opportunity to choose one preferable by their conditions and requirements.

7. Recently we at LEDAS have evaluated AutoCAD Freestyle and found out quite handy multi-touch functionality. When it will be available in “big” AutoCAD?

Are you a Mac user?

No, I’m evaluated it on PC tablet notebook. You see – I’m sort of old-school engineer, being a student I’ve used real drawing board, since then I’m keen to draw by hands but not by the mouse

You are just good example of particular kind of our customers, the person who likes to things by hands, but not formally accessing tools through menus and by mouse. Yes, this way seems much more intuitive in some respect. However there is whole generation of people, who grown up professionally already in mouse-driven environment and they don’t feel any limitations in its usage and, typically, not much keen to draw manually. Multi-touch technology is relatively new and it will be interesting to see how it will change users habits, skills and preferences with all those IPhone/iPad style of interaction. I assume that AutoCAD user interface will be adopting multi-touch technology eventually when it will be reasonably demanded and widely available on hardware.

8. AutoCAD 2011 introduces quite a lot of functionality related to conceptual design – Alias Sketch, point clouds and 3D free-form tools. Is it directed to the new market for AutoCAD or is it just a response to requirements from existing customers?

In short I can say – both. Through decades of AutoCAD development it become common tool for wide range of applications, people do use it for various purposes, and industrial design is no exception. So our users have quite understandable and firm requirements for such kind of functionality. From another hand – we see the areas where it can be competitively applied but not present yet. Another point to add some functionality like point clouds is wide availability and usage of 3D scanning hardware.

9. Just couple days ago one of us was asked for consultancy regarding presenting 3D architecture projects with stereo using NVIDIA Vision 3D hardware. After short investigation it was found out that not too many products provide such functionality, in fact we could recommend Autodesk Navisworks only. Will be stereo display capabilities featured in AutoCAD based products too?

NVIDIA among with other vendors like HP, Microsoft, AMD, Intel is our strong and well respected partner, so we are aware of all their new technologies and products. However, as I said before, in AutoCAD development the main driving force is demand from the majority of customers. Stereo display not quite common hardware yet, it is on every user desk. So, I think, we will exploit it when it will become widely available.

10. With Dassault Systemes coming to DWG-business, shall we expect any changes in AutoCAD marketing and pricing strategy?

I would not define Dassault Systemes as a strong player in the market. I did say that we have seen them launch DraftSight to the market, and that it is not particularly new in terms of the offering: low-end CAD software without true native DWG interoperability. However, we didn’t notice any changes in AutoCAD market demand after DraftSight launch. You see - AutoCAD is product with well known value and solid history and reputation. So we do not expect any serious changes in its marketing future.

Thank you very much for your answers!

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