March 2, 2004
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O N T E N T S
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Updated and Expanded for AutoCAD 2004!
Tailoring AutoCAD 2004 is the first book for AutoCAD 2004. Download as a 204-page e-book in PDF format (US$24.95) or on CD ($29.95). Covers all areas of customization, from changing the user interface to writing toolbar macros and LISP routines.
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We got in a shipment of Ralph's latest book, the 640-page "Using AutoCAD 2004: Advanced" (incl. CD). The cover looks pretty snazzy. See it at images.amazon.com/images
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An official committee was announced yesterday to promote PDF/E, the dialect of portable document format for engineering drawings. From the announcements by Bentley Systems, we knew Adobe was working with CAD vendors to make its PDF file format friendlier towards CAD drawings.
The job of the PDF Engineering (PDF/E) Working Group is to "advance standards and best practices for the use of the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) in engineering workflows." Eventually, the group hopes to create an ISO standard by 2006.
Overseeing the project are two organizations we've never heard of before, AIIM and NPES. Their Web page <www.aiim.org/pdf_e> isn't working yet, but members include:
The first planning meeting is next week, March 10 at the Javits Convention Center in New York, and is part of AIIM Standards Week 2004. Other companies are invited to take part <www.aiim.org/standards.asp>. Will Autodesk and SolidWorks show up? Perhaps not.
Autodesk didn't react directly, but during its conference call with financial analysts [see next story] it beat its DWF [design Web format] drum pretty hard: "Our viewing collaboration strategy continues to gain acceptance and momentum in the market. As the leader in digital design data, Autodesk is uniquely qualified to provide an open, secure file format to share engineering design data [DWF]."
So there you have it: Autodesk considers itself the only one ["uniquely"] qualified to do the job. Take that, Bentley. And PTC. And UGS PLM! But will DWF become an ISO standard before 2006?
Autodesk says there are 11,000 downloads daily of its free DWF Viewer, and it sees all those users as future customers of its $US199 DWF Composer, when it finally becomes available.
"We had an outstanding quarter," declares Autodesk's ceo, Carol Bartz. Hyperbole is the norm for any company making its quarterly conference call with financial analysts, but in this case it is warranted. By (almost) every measure, things are looking up, w-a-a-y up for Autodesk -- double-digit up. In one case, up 120%.
In the coming year, Autodesk hopes to finally break through the elusive US$1 billion-in-annual-revenue threshold. The company expects 5% growth next year, which puzzled an analyst: "Where is the weakness?" He wondered why Autodesk was very bullish on individual products, yet predicting future growth of just five percent. "We're being cautious," is the reply.
As much as 40% of upgrade revenue came from cross-grades: "...our strategy of moving customers to model-based platforms that are key to lifecycle management" <-- this year's buzzword. "Model-based" is code for Inventor and Revit. The positive spin is customers are switching to more expensive products, and Autodesk can anticipate higher future revenues from higher upgrade and subscription fees.
The downer? More layoffs for Autodesk employees. The company spent "just" $3 million on restructuring last quarter, and plans to spend another $34 million by the end of October. "Our restructuring efforts are just getting underway." <-- another 500 (or so) layoffs to go.
Also bad news for customers: January 2005 marks the end for AutoCAD 2000i. [We still remember the simply-fabulous launch party at New York's Four Seasons Hotel.] Try this figuring out this wording: "Consistent with typical retirement patterns, we saw significant growth in upgrade revenue as resellers concentrated their efforts and customers concentrated their budgets around the retirement of the AutoCAD 2000-based products." Out with the old...
...in with the new. In addition to AutoCAD 2005 (March 22), vertical add-ons (March and April), Inventor 9 and MDT (June), and Civil 3D (now in beta), Autodesk plans to release three new civil engineering products this fall.
For the first time, we heard the word "Linux" being used: the Discrete division will release Linux-based products. About time, because Linux is used heavily in the movie and games business. Don't, for heaven's sake, get all excited about AutoCAD for Linux. It ain't coming, what with AutoCAD 2005 tied even closer to Microsoft through .Net programming.
To emphasize that Autodesk is "strengthening our position as the industry leader," the company noted that this is the third straight year it outshipped its closest competitor [SolidWorks]: 8,200 seats last quarter, and 27,000 seats of Inventor and Pro in the last year. We suppose SolidWorks will counter with, "Yah, but we got more total users."
Interesting statistic: Autodesk admits that only 10-20% of its manufacturing customers are on 3D. The positive spin is that there are MANY potential customers for its Inventor software. "Most of our customers are still using 2D -- even in manufacturing. The move to 3D presents enormous revenue growth opportunity with significant higher ASPs [average selling price.]" Low penetration means high opportunity.
An analyst asked about the reluctance of users to switch to 3D. [Gosh, and here we thought we were in the Age of 3D for years now.] Ms Bartz admitted that 3D has been hard to learn, expensive, and has hard-to-see benefits-down-the-road issues. These days, however, the competition between manufacturing companies is sufficient for them to make the switch, she thinks.
The Mechsoft purchase is typical of what Autodesk intends to acquire in the coming year, using its $530 million cash (and no debt). Large purchases were ruled out. The technology from the MechSoft acquisition will be integrated into Inventor.
Revit sales were up 120%, but Autodesk still does not provide numbers. An analyst asked how Revit is doing: "Revit is on-plan," came the answer. That, plus the high percentage, means the numbers are still small.
Ms Bartz went on to explain two types of migration from AutoCAD: big bang into Revit, or developing through ADT (called "training wheels for BIM") to Revit. <-- a hint: AutoCAD users find it hard to switch to Revit.
Still no hard numbers on subscriptions, but there are inferences to be gained from "over 400,000 customers on subscriptions," manufacturing has the largest percentage, and AutoCAD the lowest. Some clients are now on multi-year subscriptions.
Q: "When do you plan to dispense with upgrades?" A: With AutoCAD, probably never. Most new products are subscription only.
Q: "Are people tired of upgrading?" A: No, because we have the same number of uptakes on each new release. "Annual product releases means annual product retirements."
Q: "One a year is too often for most other software packages. How can your customers make annual upgrades?" A: We are currently in sprint mode. Seamless upgrades make it easier to upgrade, as do thematic releases -- as opposed to 200 random new features. Ask us five or size years from now if we still plan annual releases. In the meantime, we have the next four releases mapped out.
Below the Radar
A summary of CAD industry news you may not have read elsewhere, or that we find interesting.
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ICEM says that its new surface modeling software, ICEM Style, lets you model in a photo-realistic modeling environment. www.icem.com
VX makes available free software it developed for manipulating the Schema and Entity lists of STEP [Standard for The Exchange of Product] model data. www.vx.com/step
Tenlinks.com alerts us to a story of Liquid Machines RMS-enabling AutoCAD -- Microsoft's Rights Management Services: www.microsoft-watch.com/article2
VISIARC has the first software for ordering of spare parts over cell phones through an always-up-to-date catalog. www.visiarc.com
Dassault Systemes launches CATIA Version 5 Release 13 next week.
ImpactXoft ships IX SPeeD V5 Suite for creating designs with CATIA during iterative work-in-progress phases. www.impactxoft.com
Axiom has a new version of FileFixer for MicroStation V8. www.axiomint.com
SolidWorks' new COSMOSWorks Designer lets you do stress and displacement analysis on SolidWorks models. www.solidworks.com
And UGS PLM Solutions has a Mold Tooling application for plastic mold suppliers. The software, based on Solid Edge Version 15, ships this quarter. www.solidedge.com
Seminars and Conferences
Annual 3D Insiders Summit sponsored by Spatial is May 3-5 in Westminster CO USA. www.spatial.com/news_events/events/summit
People/Companies on the Move
Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions changes the name of its Team GeoMedia Program to "Intergraph Synergy Program."
Bentley Systems renames its MSM Insider as 'BE Newsletter.'
Letters to the Editor
Re: AutoCAD 2005 Software Lock
"I wonder if the real reason for locking software to hardware is to force EOL [end of life] products to truly die. R14 may be dead to Autodesk, but it's still very much alive to me; I still use it daily.
"Now, if my machine goes down tomorrow,
does that mean Autodesk will not give me a new code to reactivate
AutoCAD 2005 on new hardware? That's exactly what happened with
one software package I license. Autodesk should have to distribute
key/code generator when the product is EOL."
The editor replies: "A new code is needed with major hardware changes, but when that occurs, Autodesk sends you an undefined number of new codes."
"I was confused about that too (activation)
until I went through the process and didn't even know it occurred."
"This from the Autodesk Product Activation
FAQ: 'Can I move my software license to another computer? Yes. The
Portable License utility (PLU) enables you to transfer your software
license from one machine to another. By transferring the software
license, the software is disabled on the origin computer and enabled
on the destination computer.'"
"Typo or Freudian Slip? 'It allows you
to sue the software on two computers.'
The editor replies: "Even my father caught that one!"
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Re: Joining Lines
"Steven Petersen complained that AutoCAD
does not have a mechanism to heal broken lines. He might find the
attached LISP routines helpful, if you would care to forward them
"Why not convert to lines to polylines,
and join them -- then keep the polyline width to a minimum."
"For years I have had a LISP routine
that allows me to joint two lines that have been broken, or were
separate but on the same alignment. It works in AutoCAD 2004, and
all versions before."
The editor replies: "Thanks for the tips, all. We think Mr Peterson is looking for Autodesk to provide the function as a command, rather than a work-around."
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Re: To Upgrade Or Not
"The problem with NOT upgrading AutoCAD,
unlike other software, is that Autodesk deprecates your software
after so many new releases. If you'd like to upgrade at a later
time, you may have to repurchase the software."
The editor replies: "That's correct:
Autodesk gets a double-bang when you switch from upgrades to subscriptions, because you buy the upgrade AND pay the first subscription ($500 + $400 for AutoCAD 2004). After that you pay $400 a year for the subscription."
"I already tried not upgrading a few
times over the past six years. Thing is, either the OS won't support
AutoCAD's old version, or the hardware won't support AutoCAD running
properly, or the files I receive from outside vendors are in newer
versions of AutoCAD. So, no matter how you slice the cheese (or
cut it!), I'm being COERCED into upgrading."
The editor replies: "True."
"I keep reading about a lot of people
who are unhappy with they way in which they are treated as users
by AutoCAD with regards to basic functionality, upgrades etc. Surely
the solution is to vote with their feet. I have used MicroGDS from
www.informatix.co.uk for several years now and in comparison it
is superb integrated 2D/3D, multiple users on one drawing, built
in Lightworks Renderer, fully customisable character and complex
linestyles, including offset thickened and crossing (like they way
we all used to draw on the board), full AutoCAD 2004 compatibility,
The editor replies: "Thanks for the plug. Don't know about FULL AutoCAD compatibility, tho."
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Re: Euro Symbol
"I figure you can use the attached character
map, if you don't have it so that you can have the correct symbol
for the Euro. We appreciate your outstanding work. Please keep it
The editor replies: "Thank you, but there is a reason we don't use the real Euro symbol: it sometimes confuses email software, cutting off the text after that point."
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"Thanks for your excellent reporting
from the crow's nest for those of us who have to keep both hands
on an oar all day."
"This year it seems the key to getting
investors hot for your product is to present pictures of tiny circles
inside larger circles, inside even bigger circles, inside one really
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