Issue #501 : : January 16, 2007
C o n t e n t s
Autodesk Misjudge the ODA Case?
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"Vendors tried to answer calls for open, modular, extensible,
heterogeneous, interoperable, and standards-compliant solutions
by tweaking ad copy and forming consortia to create self-serving
Germany's Nemetschek (allplan, VectorWorks) regained profitability sufficiently to buy out Hungary's Graphisoft (ArchiCAD). Price tag: US$125 million for a company that last year made $35.2 million -- that's a 3.5x premium.
(There has been hints that something was happening at Graphisoft. Last year, they spun off their office park, located on the banks of the Danube River just north of Budapest.)
I'm not sure that I'd want to be running a software company with three incompatible lines of architectural software. Until now, Nemetschek worked with two by positioning allplan as Expensive and European, and VectorWorks as Affordable and American.
Now Nemetschek has to squeeze Graphisoft between both: priced like allplan, but promoted as European and American. Nevertheless, Nemetschek will let Graphisoft run independently, just as with VectorWorks (formerly owned by Diehl Graphsoft).
Recall when Graphisoft sued Graphsoft because the name was too similar? Now they're all one family.
Which other CAD vendors might logically coalesce? There's the American trio of CoCreate (strong in Germany), IronCAD (strong in China), and Kubotek (strong in Japan), and all privately owned.
The future of MCAD is Direct Modeling. History-free Modeling. Dynamic Modeling. Freeform Modeling. Anything-But-Parametric Modeling.
Companies like IronCAD, CoCreate, and Kubotek (formerly Cadkey) have a common problem. They have small marketshares, and their mechanical software isn't history-based parametric CAD. They suffer from the perception that benefits PTC, SolidWorks, UGS, and Autodesk: parametric software = strong CAD. After all, it's the weenie CAD packages that don't use parametrics, like AutoCAD and IntelliCAD, but the $5k-$20K MCAD brutes that do.
The problem facing vp Bob Bean and his team at Kubotek USA is how to convince potential customers that it's better rid drawings of the history tree. One method is to explains the pros and cons.
History-free vs History Modeling
Benefits of direct modelers:
Benefits of parametric modelers:
Bob Bean explains that direct modelers, like his KeyCreator software, are better for everyone in the long run, because their files store only the mathematics of cones, spheres, faces, edges, and so on. This is data that is common to all software, including important segments like CAM [computer-aided manufacturing].
In contrast,he says, parametrics benefits vendor lock-in. Their files store features, constraints, and other proprietary data, and so there is always problems moving the data to other systems. He says he has noticed small steps to direct modeling by SolidWorks and UGS.
"We want to breakdown vendor lock-in," Bob Bean declares.
Another method is to hire American PhDs in geometric topology to come up with CAD features that the parametric programs are hard-pressed to meet. Kubotek calls this "Direct Modeling," and with it comes major a push in marketing and upgrading, through these technologies:
FaceLogic works as simply as this: hold down the Shift key, and then pass the cursor over the model. As you pause the cursor over a face, FaceLogic datamines the geometry, and then displays the result in a yellow tooltip, such as "15 Pocket Faces." Depending on the mode, FaceLogic returns all identical faces, blends, features, primitives, and other kinds of patterns in the geometric data.
It goes beyond parametrics, notes demo jock John McCullough, because FaceLogic is able to find cavities, a feature that does not exist in parametric-defined drawings. Once discovered, features can be edited, such as 60 holes resized at once.
Direct-Dimension Editing works like this:
1. Attach one or more dimensions to parts of the solid model.
(While this seems similar to parametric editing, the difference is that Kubotek operates directly on the geometry.) McCullough showed how selecting one end of the dimension highlights the faces attached to the related extension line.
The first of this new technology becomes available to Kubotek customers on January 29. The company plans to harness its geometric topologists to generate even more features that parametric CAD can't touch.
When on November 13 Autodesk launched its law suit against the Open Design Alliance, its timing seemed perfect against the non-profit organization. The ODA had just expelled its president, and had lost US$600,000 by embezzlement.
The timing seemed right for Autodesk to diminish an organization it found annoying. In initial court appearances, the ODA's lawyer presented weak arguments in defense of his client. In just two weeks, Autodesk got its temporary restraining order, and posted a bond of a mere US$10,000 -- not the $1 million the ODA asked for.
Autodesk successfully placed its first steps. These would lead to further legal action in the new year, a permanent restraining order, large fines, and certain victory.
But the early missteps by ODA and successes by Autodesk are an illusion. Here's why:
1. The ODA was not without a president. On August 3, the sharp-minded president of the IntelliCAD Technical Consortium, Arnold van der Weide, was asked to step in as acting president -- replacing the embattled Evan Yares. Perhaps unknown to Autodesk, van der Weide was already hard at work remaking the ODA to become as efficient as the ITC.
2. The guilty party behind the $600,000 embezzlement was quickly found. (It was the employee of an external office services company contracted by the ODA.) The ODA put this headache behind them quickly.
3. The ODA switched from using their lawyer-of-record to a powerful Silicon Valley law firm specializing in these types of cases. The ODA now has seven lawyers-of-record from two law firms defending it. With the new legal team, the tone in the courtroom and in legal documents has reversed, with the ODA lawyers appearing to be working from a position of strength. For example, after Autodesk claimed that non-Autodesk software is more likely to damage DWG files, the ODA's new lawyer convinced the judge to demand proof from Autodesk.
This will be tough for Autodesk to prove. While it is easy for Autodesk to come up with damaged, non-Autodesk DWG files, I can't see how it can prove that there are fewer drawings damaged by AutoCAD. After all, Autodesk added the Audit and Recover commands to fix drawings damaged by AutoCAD -- some two years before the first non-Autodesk software wrote DWG files.
(The declaration made last week by an Autodesk QA employee backs my assertion: he presented just two examples of IntelliCAD-corrupted DWG files, and admitted that Autodesk relies on anecdotal evidence.)
4. Autodesk is 'hated' -- in my experience, this word is not too strong -- by powerful people and large corporations, some larger than it. They want to see Autodesk lose this case. This means that the ODA has no problem funding its legal bills. In any case, the ODA's constitution allows it to declare special assessments when it requires more income from members.
5. At the end of the year, the ODA's new legal team went on the attack, countersuing Autodesk for false advertising, monopolist behavior, intentional interference, trade libel, and five other charges. Among the damages sought by ODA is a demand that Autodesk run ads admitting that 'TrustedDWG' is a misnomer.
The key point of this law suit is the logo 'TrustedDWG.' (Some think it's over the use of the name 'Autodesk,' but 'tain't so.) Autodesk is suing the ODA over using a logo trademarked by Autodesk; ODA is countersuing over the phrase "may result in stability issues" that appears in AutoCAD when non-Autodesk-generated DWG files are opened.
6. Autodesk has begun to back off. In last week's filing, Autodesk promised it would tone down the anti-ODA language in AutoCAD 2008. The wording changes from:
"Use of this file with AutoCAD software may result in stability issues."
"Autodesk cannot guarantee the application compatibility or integrity of this file."
Behind the scenes, this legal action is coalescing the anti-Autodesk forces. This is no question over simple trademark infringement; it's a battle over who controls access to DWG:
The judge in this case has made it clear that she wants to understand what's going on. But both sides want trial by jury, because it is easier to confuse jury members over technical minutiae.
What further battles might the world's largest CAD software vendor have unleashed against itself?
We can get an idea from another firm in the category of World's Largest. Microsoft had been paying a fine of a million Euros a day to the EC [European commission]. The EC wanted Microsoft to fully document its operating system and server software APIs so that competitors can more easily interface their products. The fines continued, because the EC was not satisfied with the quality of documentation.
Autodesk could face a similar demand from the EC. While Autodesk has documented its DWG APIs, the company (1) currently charges for access, and (2) restricts access. Might the EC demand that these two limitations be dropped?
Meanwhile back in the United States, another battle may re-emerge. Ten years ago, Autodesk faced scrutiny from the FTC [federal trade commission], who placed restrictions on Autodesk's anti-IntelliCAD behavior. The restrictions come to an end in a few months. Might the FTC revisit these restrictions?
(There is another feature in DWG that could be considered problematic, one that may emerge later during this trial.)
When you become the World's Largest, the rules of the game are changed for you.
[To read the court documents, register at Owen Wengerd's blog at http://www.adskvoda.com ]
A summary of CAD industry news you may not have read elsewhere, or that I found interesting:
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It's a SketchUp world!
Google releases SketchUp 6 with these new features: LayOut (paper space), Photo Match (convert photos to 3D models), Watermarks (2D images and text in 3D scenes), Sketchy Effects (hand-drawn look), fog, 3D text, and styles (display settings). SketchUp is free, but some features are only in the Pro version (US$495). Download from www.sketchup.com/index.php?title=Features
IMSI/soft says it'll throw in the free version of SketchUp 6 when you buy its TurboSketch Studio (US$70). It's Mac-specific. www.imsisoft.com/prodinfo.asp?t=1&mcid=428&cid=297816
Punch Software, a big name in retail CAD sales, says its 2D/3D ViaCAD (US$99) imports SketchUp 6 and runs on Mac OS X and Windows. Due to ship in March. www.punchviacad.com
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Architectural version of CadCARD (US$25) now available. www.cadcard.com
VectorWorks is updated to 12.5.1 with bug fixes. See www.nemetschek.net/upgrade/index.php
VRcontext releases Walkinside v4.5 real-time visualization software. New features include batch processing and heterogeneous database support. www.vrcontext.com
Avatech Solutions launches Product Browser to work with Autodesk's Productstream to access product designs. US$1,250 for five users and one year of support. www.avatech.com/products/software/avatech/productbrowser
Actify releases DesignShare 2.0 (runs on SharePoint) and Publisher 3.0, which now republishes .3D files. www.actify.com
CAD Systems Unlimited ships Slick! ViewPlus v2.0(US$99) supporting AutoCAD and Mechanical 2007, and 3D DWF. It can also be used as a front-end to SolidWorks and Microstation file viewers. 15-day demo from www.slickwin.com/slickviewplusdownload.html
And Aras is today launching open-source PLM apps based on .NET, claimed to be "similar to UGS Teamcenter or PTC's Windchill." After registration, tou can download a production-ready system for unlimited users. The software is free; you pay for support and service. www.aras.com
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These news items were posted during the last month at the WorldCAD Access blog < worldcadaccess.typepad.com>:
And at the Gizmos Grabowski <worldcadaccess.typepad.com/gizmos/ > Weblog:
Stratasys released ASTM F-75 Cobalt Chromium for use with Arcam electron beam melting systems. www.stratasys.com/systems.aspx?id=484
Seminars & Conferences
Daratech Plant 2007 is Jan 29-31 in Houston TX USA.
I'll be attending SolidWorks World 2007 being held Feb 4-7 in New Orleans LA USA. www.solidworks.com/pages/swworld07/index.html
I'll also be attending Autodesk's World Press Day 07 in San Francisco CA USA.
UGS Connection Americas 2007 User Conference is Apr 23-27 in Long Beach CA USA. event.plmworld.org
isicad-2008 Forum is Jul 30-Aug 1, 2008 in Novosibirsk, Russia. The total eclipse of the sun will be observed Aug 1 at 16:45 in Novosibirsk. isicad.ru/2008/ [That would be a neat one to attend!]
Mike Riddle's new blog is at http://www.michaelriddle.com .
David Cohn writes about CAD and anything else at http://cadman-do.blogspot.com/
People/Companies on the Move
Questex Media appoints Amy Stankiewicz as editor-in-chief of 'Cadalyst' magazine, but she will continue her work at 'Geospatial Solutions' as well. She replaces Sara Ferris.
Autodsys registers AcceliCAD as its trademark. [That used to be the name of a third-party display-list driver for AutoCAD, back when DLP drivers were still all the rage.]
IBM agrees to resell and support Teamcenter Express, UGS's PLM software, in USA, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and China. www.ugs.com/partners/ibm
Autodesk and Robobat agree to not merge anymore. Robobat continues as an independent company.
Belgium's LMS International acquires France's IMAGINE and its 1D multiphyics simulation software.
D3 Technologies purchases the Autodesk manufacturing interests of CADVisions, a dealer in Texas.
Jennifer Fernandez leaves PWB to become full-time mom.
Open Design Alliance moves its corporate headquarters to Phoenix AZ USA.
Brand New CAD Books/eBooks
"Version 8.1 – JT File Format Reference"
"Animations With AutoCAD"
Letters to the Editor
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Spin Doctor of the Moment
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