Issue #230: 2 January, 2001

Inside this Issue

Looking Ahead in '01

Welcome to the new millennium. While visiting a CAD vendor last year, I was asked what I thought was the most important upcoming technology. The questioner was expecting me to answer along the line of "on-demand software" or similar. His eyebrows rose into his forehead when I replied, "wireless Palms." Fortunately, another editor who was with me, vouched for my statement. "Until I got a Palm, I didn't know what the fuss was about, either," said he. The Canadian company, Research in Motion, has shown that always-on wireless instant email can be a hit. Now imagine a similar device, but one not limited to email; the drawback, of course, is that you are always in contact, and will need to learn to turn off the device at the appropriate time.

P2P exploded onto the Web in 2000, then was hammered by legal proceedings. In 2001, look for companies to digitally protect data. Late in 2000, Autodesk invested in Alchemedia, whose Clever Content technology "protects content from Napsterization (peer-to-peer sharing), and enables content-based commerce by preventing copying, printing, and screen capturing of content." A proposed extension to the ATA spec would place a unique identifier on hard drives. This would require you to get permission from software and media companies before moving and copying files that depend on the code number. The system -- developed by IBM, Toshiba, Intel, and Matsushita -- could prevent defragging, backups, mirroring, and emergency hard drive replacements from working. Summery at http://www.cmptr.com/view.php?id=447

Skins became popular in 2000 as a way to instantly change the look of software. And a number of software packages made dramatic departures from the Office look'n feel, such as Microsoft's own MediaPlayer 7. From the previews I saw of SolidWorks 2001 and thinkDesign 6, expect in 2001 to see CAD software deviate from user interface standards dictated by Microsoft. (Oh, yes, not to be left out, Office 2001 itself will -- once again -- change its user interface.)

Another area to watch during 2001 is the increasing conflict between manufacturers and retailers. A recent survey shows that 74% of manufacturers still don't sell over the Web because they are concerned for their dealer network. Of those that do, some sell at full list price to protect dealers. Others, such as furniture maker Ethan Allen, give the retailer 25% when he somehow "provides fulfillment or service" for online purchases. When the item is shipped direct from Web site to the customer, Ethan Allen gives 10% of the profit the store closest to the customer; the store is then expected to provide after-sales service.

Will we see upgrade fatigue hit the CAD market in 2001? In the general computing world, users no longer see the need to automatically upgrade their software and hardware -- hence the hammering of the tech stocks late in 2000. The apparent slowdown in the economy could give CAD managers the excuse to not spend their budgets (and valuable time) on software upgrades.

And what about subscription server-based software (a.k.a. ASPs)? I doubt they'll replace the current models of software payment and distribution. Instead, subscriptions will supplement other forms of software payment: freeware, shareware, and one-time license payments. Similarly, server-based software will take its place along current forms of distribution: the CD-ROM and Internet downloads. In 2000, the most successful ASPs were those who provided supplemental services, such as translation and project management; less prominent were the CAD systems themselves. This could be due to two reasons: (1) it takes longer to convert an entire CAD system to ASP mode; and (2) users are not going to rely on an ASP-version of their primary software (read: mission critical), whereas the supplemental apps are not as crucial; you can always switch to another translation service.

Finally, 64-bit computing could give Linux its needed boost over Windows in 2001. While several variants of Linux are ready to ship when Intel's 64-bit CPU ships, Microsoft has acknowledged that Windows will be delayed by a quarter or two -- meaning that Itanium-compatible CAD software from Autodesk, Unigraphics, and PTC will also be delayed, if they rely on Windows.

IMSI Comes to Visit

It was just a few days before Christmas when marketing staff from IMSI came to visit the office of upFront.eZine located north of the American-Canadian border. The occasion was to introduce TurboCAD v7 to me, which has been shipping as an update to existing customers since November, and began selling to new customers this month.

TurboCAD is a product whose image was maligned by hyper-marketing, and is now taking the long road back to respectability. It's hard not to forget the mass mailings (Get CAD for Just $29!), and the Corporate Seeding Program (Get CAD for Free!). The legacy is too bad, since TurboCAD is a pretty good product. As IMSI's Rob Berry declared in his opening remarks to me, "It's time has come!"

You could almost say TurboCAD has "nearly twice the features of AutoCAD LT for nearly half the price." Mr Berry likes to put it another way: "The monopoly of AutoCAD is over; there is no reason to buy LT." Them's brave fighting words, also spoken by other CAD vendors in years past who subsequently stumbled over Autodesk's tracks.

There is a ton of new stuff in TurboCAD 7; I took four pages of notes as Mr Berry went through and showed them to me. I'll mention some of the highlights; you can read the details at http://www.turbocad.com .

Ordinary TurboCAD is $99, while the full TurboCAD Professional is US$399. You can download a 15-day version from http://www.digitalriver.com/dr/v2/ec_MAIN.Entry17c?SP=10007&PN=5&CID=0&SID=25271&PID=281776

Looking ahead to TurboCAD v8, IMSI is going to add modules. The first one, which Mr Berry demostrated, is an animation plug-in. After creating a walkthrough of your model, the plugin generates an AVI file.

I asked Mr Berry what was happening with some of IMSI's other products. TurboSketch might be revived. IMSI will drop Visual CADD after the next release (v5), with TriTools Partners taking over sales and distribution; TriTools already has the job of maintaining and upgrading the Visual CADD code base <http://www.tritools.com>. TurboCAD SolidModeler has many of its functions included in TurboCAD; development of SolidModeler has "paused," but might be revived in the future.

PlanetCAD Conference Call

Just a few days before Christmas, PlanetCAD <http://www.planetcad.com> held a conference call to introduce their new ceo and cfo. After just three days with the company, ceo James Bracking said he sees good plans at PlanetCAD that need refinement. His first job is to get the team focussed. He is looking for a senior marketing executive.

During the Q&A that followed, an analyst asked: (1) how much cash was in the bank; and (2) what the burn rate was. The cfo replied: (1) US$20 million; and (2) we're not saying. Other questions dealt with analysts' concerns that PlanetCAD be able to sell its products into large corporate environments.

Analysts also tried to question why former ceo Bruce Morgan had left; insiders say Mr Morgan simply needed a break after three years of working to turnaround Spatial.

upFront.eZine French Edition

I am pleased to announce that upFront.eZine is again available in six languages. With this issue, Maxence Delannoy of France will be translating upFront.eZine into French, joining the Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, and English Editions. Mr Delannoy will post the current issue and back issues at his Web site: http://perso.wanadoo.fr/maxence.delannoy . To subscribe to the French Edition, email Mr Delannoy at maxence.delannoy@wanadoo.fr and he will place you on his mailing list.

Below the Radar

A summary of press releases you may not have read elsewhere:

Joe Greco <joe3d@home.com> in his 'MCAD Tech News' guesses that Autodesk is developing its own solid modeling kernel.

New features in Rhino include multiple workspace support; new OrientCrvToEdge command; VBScript and JScript support; compressed 3DM files; improved STEP I/O; GHS export for marine designers; and many bug fixes. More info at visit http://www.rhino3d.com/whatisnew.htm and and http://www.flamingo3d.com/whatisnew.htm. Rhino 1.1 users can download the newest Rhino 2.0 beta and Flamingo beta from http://www.rhino3d.com/beta/

Think3's new 3D game-based learning adventure software, Time Mechanic, was due to be available in December at http://www.timemechanic.com. In December, a message indicated it would be ready by month's end; now, a new message has increased the delay to early February. While the game can be downloaded free, it requires that the free demo version of thinkDesign v6 be installed on the computer, along with a minimum 56Kbps Internet connection.

Autodesk posted a FAQ on Motiva at http://pointa03.autodesk.com/portal/nav/index.htm

For readers who want the CAD headlines delivered to their desktop on a daily basis, you can subscribe at http://www.tenlinks.com/News/subscribe.htm.


COFES: Congress on the Future of Engineering Software on April 26-28 in Scottsdale AZ USA. http://www.cofes.com/

Computer News Summaries

Bugs remain in the Pentium 4. One causes the CPU to slow down. When a second monitor or graphics card is installed, another bug could corrupt data. More info at http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1003-200-4285629.html?tag=st.ne.1002.tgif.ni

Also, a critique of the Pentium 4's inability to run software faster: http://www.emulators.com/pentium4.htm : "...the Pentium 4 does not live up to speed claims, loses terribly in fact to months old AMD Athlon chips, and lacks some of the crucial features originally designed into the Pentium 4 spec."

In the meantime, Dell's Web site is already selling computers with the unavailable 1.5GHz Pentium 4 CPU for just US$2,309 plus p&h: http://www.dell.com/html/us/segments/dhs/choose_dim_8100.htm

Handspring is buying Bluelark Systems for US$16 million in stock. The company plans to use the acquisition to improve its wireless Internet access options. Bluelark makes the fastest browser for the Palm OS, and it displays WAP, HTML, and i-Mode pages. Handspring plans to this year bundle the browser with the VisorPhone. http://www.bluelark.com

An easy way to expand your notebook computer's disk capacity: Toshiba's MK2001MPL PC Card hard drive (US$599), which stores 2GB. Its Plug-n-Play feature means you can insert and pull the card drive at any time.

Market News

IMSI's common shares are once again trading on the Over the Counter Bulletin Board under the symbol IMSI.

The share price of the European CAD stocks I track have fallen dramatically over the last half year, when the XYZ Euro CAD Index stood at €100.97; the year ended with the index at €12.30.

The WorthWhile Web

A funny techie Web site. For example: "Linux Bashing Now Considered a Hate Crime"

AOL technica
The Internet Moron's Resource

The Register
"Iraq buys 4000 PlayStation 2s in world conquest bid",Kb=PalmSupportKB,Company=%7BDB6F07FD-D587-11D4-85BF-0002B3155542%7D,templateset=Palm_External2001
Palm Knowledge Finder
It's a long URL, but it answered several questions I had about using the Palm.

Film footage of Santa Claus flying over the southern tip of Africa and under the space station.

Brand New CAD Book

Architectural AutoCAD by David Madsen
Published by Goodheart-Willcox
List price: US$13.00
For more info, or to purchase online: www.amazon.com

Notable Quotable

"Perhaps we do not need Autodesk at all if IntelliCAD for Mac OS X could come into existence and offer unrivaled AutoCAD compatibility."
- http://www.architosh.com/news/2000-12/001218-intellicadosx.html


All contents copyright 2001 by XYZ Publishing, Ltd. Inc., and all rights are reserved. No material may be reproduced electronically or in print without written permission from XYZ Publishing, 34486 Donlyn Avenue Abbotsford BC, V2S 4W7, Canada, unless otherwise noted.