u p F r o n t . e Z i n e
the business of cad
Issue #697 | June 28, 2011
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In This Issue
1. Where is the Anti-Trust in CAD?
- The Problem is Not Pricing, It's...
2. Autodesk Consumer Group
3. Out of the Inbox and other regular columns
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Where is the Anti-Trust in CAD?
The European Union is looking at anti-trust issues among MCAD vendors in Europe, but hasn't said exactly (a) which vendors it thinks are guilty and (b) what the anti-trust issues are.
It's hard to write about an important story when the details are as vague as mist. I spoke with a lawyer specializing in anti-trust issues to seek a better understanding of what the EU might be looking for.
It turns out that the key element that alerts authorities in the EU (and in USA) is pricing. In a competitive environment, prices over time should come down. When they do not, then the authorities assume that a monopoly exists or that price fixing (collusion between vendors) might be taking place.
For example, when software vendors first released business software for PCs in the late 1980s, they tended to be priced at $500 each. In those days, the trifecta was SSI WordPerfect word processor: $500; Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet: $500; Ashton-Tate dBase II database: $500. (This is a case of the market taking cues from each other; the $500-price became a de facto standard.)
With competition, however, prices for business software fell, and now you can purchase market leader's Office Professional 2010 from Microsoft for $500. That's Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access at $83 each. (Throw in inflation, and the price has fallen by more than 10x.)
In the CAD world, the opposite occurred. In the late 1980s, software prices for PC-based CAD were clustered around the $1,000 mark -- give or take $500. Since then, prices increased 4x, with MicroStation, AutoCAD, SoldidWorks, KeyCreator, and so on, priced at around $4,000, plus-or-minus $1,000.
CAD software pricing for PCs increase, despite competition from cheap (anything under $1,000, my definition) and free CAD, such as Generic CADD (20 years ago), IntelliCAD (10 years ago), and DraftSight (today).
It's this "wrong-way pricing" that probably set off the alarm bells over in Europe, according to the lawyer.
The Problem is Not Pricing, It's...
IMHO, pricing is not a problem in CAD. There are so many cheap and free alternatives that are getting better every year, just like OpenOffice and LibreOffice are now suitable no-cost replacements for Office.
In my opinion, the real problem is exclusive dealerships, in which a CAD dealer can only sell software from one CAD vendor. The customer walking into the store gets only the best solution from one vendor, not the best solution to solving his design problems. If the EU and the USA want to improve prices and service at the same time, then their regulatory agencies must make illegal exclusive dealership contracts imposed by CAD software vendors.
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Autodesk Consumer Group
Tatjana Dzambazova was on the phone with me recently, she being a senior product manager at Autodesk. Formerly with Revit, she is now with Autodesk's Consumer Group, newly formed last fall. So new, I hadn't heard of it until now.
The consumer group is trying extend the reach of Autodesk software, to bring technology down to the consumer level. The group is under the Platform Division, which is responsible for AutoCAD, LT, Design Review, and so on.
The products that the consumer group is responsible for include 123D, SketchBook, HomeStyler, and the Android and iPad apps, such as SketchBook Mobile and Tinkerbox -- with lower pricing or no pricing.
Ms Dzambazova noted that consumers have good computers at home and other devices that used to be stationary and expensive, like video cameras, music recorders, which needed pros to operate them. When thet became mobile, they became tools of consumption for playing with (instead of working for).
She dubbed this "Generation M," the maker generation. Digital creation and publication tools have been "democratized" -- to reuse that hoary jargon Autodesk once applied to its $4,000-AutoCAD. Online communities allow you to expose what you are doing, and sell it too.
She foresees distributed local manufacturing using 3D printers -- either making things yourself, or uploading designs to have them fabricated by others. This could introduce a whole new "work at home" segment for things you usually don't model and but need. (My mind flashes back to "Work at Home!" ads from Popular Mechanics in the 1950s -- cutting keys.)
She summarized that Autodesk is bringing together three necessary parts: software, parts, and services.
Ostensibly, this interview was about 123D. Tying into the theme of "making things will become easier and easier," 123D is not just the name of a piece of software (based on Inventor Fusion), but also a place to share models.
This initial version of 123D will always be free, and includes 5,000 parts. It is the first of a line of products for different devices and platforms. "Consumers" means everybody, and it is difficult to target everybody. So the first release of 123D is targeted at makers, and not everyone. In particular, it is aimed at those who take exiting models and want to modify it.
123D is currently in beta, and available for 32- or 64-bit versions of Windows only. You can download it from http://www.123dapp.com.
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Out of the Inbox
Dassault Systemes has an impressive announcement this morning: one million downloads of DraftSight, their free 2D DWG-based CAD pacakge. (Graebert must be very proud!) As well, the company announced updates in early July for all three platforms, Linux, OS X, and WIndows. http://www.draftsight.com
Global CAD GROUP aims to be a group of independent professional CAD providers who sell to international CAD customers. Formed in February of this year, the group was formalized last week in Munich. At this point, the 120 members are from 27 European and CIS countries. http://www.globalcadgroup.com
Electrical design has pretty much always been 2D, and now Trace Software International's elecworks 2011 for SolidWorks is focused on visualizing cables and wires in automated 3D wiring. "Precise wire length calculations enable pre-assembly wire processing in a streamlined production cycle" -- AirBus could've used this software a few years ago. http://www.elecworks.com
Autodesk now sells USB thumbdrives with $10,000 worth of software. So Lucas Distribution now sells a "USB Dongle Lockbox Product Line": a plastic enclosure, 6 foot USB extender, combination lock with steel locking cable, and an anchor point. http://papertraylock.com/USB-Dongle-Lock.html
CIMdata's next CIMdata PLM Certificate Program is Sept 26-30 in Oslo, Norway. http://www.cimdata.com/services/education/plm_certificate.html
First Trace releases Kinnosa 5.0 engineering document management software, now iwth CAD attribute linking, browser-based Web portal, document biography service, and more. http://www.FirstTrace.com
And Intergraph upgrades CADWorx 2012 Plant Design Suite for AutoCAD 2012, and now shows component discontinuities and overlapss improved pipe supports, and extended bills of material. http://www.intergraph.com/products/ppm/cadworx
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These were the news item that was posted during the last week at our WorldCAD Access blog <worldcadaccess.typepad.com>:
- Customizing AutoCAD's user interface
- EFF cranks Vernor v. Autodesk up to Supreme Court level
Letters to the Editor
"Further to a recent item of yours about the Autodesk Apps Store tab now appearing in Autodesk Exchange, here are a few comments for you.
"1. It only appears in pure AutoCAD installations, and not in any of the verticals or even part of the verticals. I installed AutoCAD as part of the Product Design Suite Ultimate, and so it installed AutoCAD Mechanical. Even when I run under the Vanilla profile, Autodesk Exchange recognizes it as AutoCAD Mechanical and won't access the Apps Store tab.
"2. Bypassing problem 1 above, here is the web link directly to the Autodesk Apps Store: http://exchange.autodesk.com/autocad/enu/store
"The bad news is that this only gets you to the basic home page. The drop menus require Internet Explorer 9, and don't work under IE 8 or earlier. The really bad news is that IE 9 is only available for Vista and 7, so XP users are stuck. I haven't tried other browsers.
"Given Autodesk's current efforts at pushing their suites, I wonder if developers selling stuff on the Apps Store realize that a huge chunk of their potential market can't see their products."
- Bill Fane
"Actually, apps can be sideload on iOS, but it's complicated. You need to send the unique identifier of your iPad to the vendor, and he then makes a special Deployment Certificate that lasts 1 year, allowing you to sideload any application signed with that cert into your device.
"It's a horribly complex process, starting with the fact that finding out your iPad's identifier requires some bizarre tricks in iTunes. He needs to send you the special certificate along with the deployment app package, and then you use iTunes to load both into your device (again, a very tricky process).
"It appears that Apple made the entire process very difficult to ensure that it was not used to side-step their store; but instead is only used for scenarios like yours (and for beta testing new software).
"Apple claims that you could use the process to do an internal deployment of enterprise software, but I don't really think that's possible in practice."
- Joshua Smith
"The hard part in technology is not figuring out what's going to happen, the hardest part is finding out when it's going to happen, and who's going to make it happen."
- John Scully
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Entire contents copyright 2011 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $250 and up. All trademarks belong to their respective holders. "upFront.eZine," "The Business of CAD," and "WorldCAD Access" are trademarks of upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. Letters to the editor may be edited for clarity and brevity. Translations and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.