AutoDesk, Apple and the Internet

AutoDesk has made two moves of interest recently. Both are attempts to expand its potential markets and hook new users. Apple Computer, iPad and the internet are the primary focus of both new products.

I haven't used AuotCAD for Mac, or spent a lot of time using AutoCAD WS, this post is to spread the news in any small way I can about these products.

AutoCAD for Mac: AutoCAD hasn't developed a version of it's class dominating drafting software for Apple's platform since release 12 in 1992. Coincidentally, this was the version I first used as a sophomore in high school. Insiders have indicated that AutoCAD's presence on the relatively small platform at that time was subsidized by Apple and speculate that that may again be the case.

I anticipate several hurdles that could hinder AutoCAD's adoption on the platform.

  • Any CAD work done in the last 18 years required either the purchase of a PC or a switch from AutoCAD to a competitor such as Vectorworks*.
  • The largest market I can imagine among existing Mac owners would be Architects, who if anticipating and budgeting for a software change would, I hope, be moving toward a BIM (building information modeling) solution such as AutoDesk's own Revit, which doesn't appear to be available for the Mac platform.
  • Many professionals who use AutoCAD, including Engineers and Landscape Architects, rely on a suite of software which in most cases is tailored to a windows environment and would require a massive investment on the order of more than $10,000.00/station (including AutoCAD's $4,000.00 and the price of a new Mac). This assumes that all of that software is available on the Mac platform*. 
  • Drafting companies tend to be more price conscious than architects which would lead me to believe they are purchasing commodity computers and might find it hard to justify the price premium of a comparably spec'd Mac.
  • AutoDesk's sales model for the past 3-5 years has been moving toward a subscription basis. $4000.00 up front and about $450.00/yr. thereafter to maintain current software. I haven't been able to find whether or not the Mac version may be swapped for the thousands of existing Windows subscriptions.

*Some of these issues could be ovecome using virtualization software (a topic for another day), but that would add additional complexity and require the additional cost of purchasing a stand alone copy of Windows.

AutoCADWS: AutoCAD Web Services? is a secure, online portal for sharing, storing and editing files, and specifically 2D AutoCAD files. It includes several nice features we have come to expect in web applications like Google docs.

AutoCAD WS includes:

  • the ability to markup and edit drawings, though with a restricted tool set when compared to the desktop application.
  • The ability to share drawings and determine restrictions including editing and/or downloading
  • Versioning tools to see edits along a timeline and revert to previous editions. 
  • online collaboration, including real time review
  • integrated uploading from withing AutoCAD 2011 and AutoCAD LT 2011 (requires update)
  • An app for the iPhone and iPad
  • free account (for now)

 Hope this has been helpful.