t h e b u s i n e s s o f c a d
Issue #748 | August 28, 2012
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In This Issue
1. What caused ADSK's biggest share price plunge (in three years)?
2. Rewriting Inventor Fusion for Mac
3. Out of the Inbox, and our other regular columns.
What caused ADSK's biggest share price plunge (in three years)?
From reading through transcripts and analyses, it appears to me that there were three reasons for the sudden* slowdown in Autodesk sales in Q2, which lead to the company's CFO reducing revenue projections for the rest of the fiscal year:
1. The company in Q1 reorganized its sales teams from regions to verticals (AEC, MCAD, etc).
2. Autodesk attempted in July to jack up end-of-quarter sales by threatening customers with a price increase for August.
3. Sales in Q2 fell unexpectedly in Central Europe, India, and Brazil (and were flat or lower in other areas of the world)
a. Partly due to the sales teams experiencing some confusion in their new reports
b. Partly due to the economy entering its second recession
c. Partly due to customers resisting the higher prices
The irony is that sales were up (by 4% over the same period a year ago), which is good by capitalistic standards; the nasty part came because sales were not up by enough (a promised 10%). I would be dancing around my office with a 4% increase in my company's sales; public companies have to play by different rules, however, rules set by the owners, the shareholders.
The 16% drop in share price last Friday cost ADSK some $1.3 billion in market value. More importantly, 520 employees and an unknown number of contractors will lose their their jobs as Autodesk management continues towards what it believes to be its cloud-and-mobile future.
*) By "sudden," I mean that in mid-June the slowdown was not apparent to Autodesk; by mid-July it was.
Although Autodesk issued a confirmation as recently as mid-June that growth would still be 10% for the rest of the year, it did not alert the markets in mid-July about the subsequent slowdown, as other public companies might have done. Shareholders don't like surprises, hence the cliff-like drop in share price. Remember that the share price reflects the perceived future value of a company.
Writing Inventor Fusion for Mac
Writing software to work the same and look the same on more than one operating systems is a tough job after what became a Windows-centric computing world. Here, Autodesk senior product line manager of emerging technology Kevin Schneider describes for upFront.eZine readers the challenges encountered by Autodesk as it worked to make Inventor Fusion platform-independent.
The skill set for cross-platform development came to Autodesk through its acquisition of Alias and Maya from Toronto. This software is cross-platform, running on Linux, OS X, and Windows.
There certainly is MCAD software for Mac users, such as solidThinking, Moi 3D, and Ashlar Vellum, as well as the heavy-duty NX from Siemens PLM. Rumors implicate PTC's Creo (likely, in my opinion) and Dassault's Solidworks (unlikely) in speculative Mac editions.
Inventor Fusion began as a preview program for Windows only, but seeing interest from Mac users, Autodesk decided a couple of years ago to rewrite Inventor Fusion as a cross-platform application. There is no "Mac team" at Autodesk's manufacturing software division; instead, the division adopted a "write once, run anywhere" philosophy for new software.
The tech preview version (newish term for "public beta") of Inventor Fusion for Mac came out in April on Autodesk Labs, and then Autodesk worked with Apple to make sure that Mountain Lion-specific functions (like notifications) worked with the first official release on July 25 -- the same day that Mac OS X v10.8 came out -- through Apple's online Mac software store.
The Mac version does not have function-parity with the older Windows version, but Autodesk is working on it, just as they are with AutoCAD for Mac; and eventually it will. And not just Mac OS X; Autodesk is now well set up to take advantage of OS-features specific in Windows 8 that might be useful for Fusion.
In this first release, Fusion for Mac does 2D sketching, direct 3D history-free modeling, assemblies, real-time rendering, and offers cloud storage for files. Should your Mac run Mountain Lion, then Fusion handles notifications (when files are edited) and shows designs on large monitors with AirPlay mirroring.
Fusion for Mac is free, but requires at least OS X 1.7 (Lion), so older machines with v1.6 or earlier will need to pay $20 for the operating system upgrade from Apple.
Q: Is Inventor Fusion available only through Apple Mac Store?
Q: What kinds of things did you have to do to make it cross-platform?
A: We wrote the original Fusion for Windows using the C# programming language, but it is Windows-only, and so we had to rewrite it in C++ to make it cross-platform. We had to go down to the lowest levels of the software, and rebuild every piece to make sure that there was nothing specific to Windows. The net benefit from all the reworking was increased efficiency, and so Fusion for Windows runs faster than before the change-over.
We had to work with component products, like our own ShapeManager [solid modeling kernel], to get non-Windows versions of them.
Q: Are you using the constraint manager from D-Cubed?
A: No, we have our own written by the ShapeManager team. This team has been working to make ShapeManager cross-platform.
We made a big investment to make the graphics system work the same on DirectX 11 (for Windows) and OpenGL (for Mac).
Q: Why would you not use OpenGL for both?
A: We use DirectX on Windows, because it provides better performance and driver quality.
We built a cross-platform user interface for Fusion, using the same one as Maya.
Q: Which UI library are you using?
A: We use QT [the most popular cross-platform UI SDK, from Nokia].
Q: Operating systems have unique functions, such as OLE on Windows or share sheets in OS X, which cannot be implemented another OS. Do you think this can be a problem?
A: We don't have a problem that OS-specific stuff might be missing. Fusion does have small slivers to make the software feel native to the operating system. So, there is no notification system in Windows, but there is in OS X.
Q: I notice that Inventor for Mac has its own F3D file format. [Fusion for Windows uses DWG.] Why develop a new one?
A: We developed it because of the way that information is stored, which Inventor's and AutoCAD's formats could not handle it. It is also part of our plan towards a new way of sharing data between programs.
Q: But Inventor 2013, AutoCAD 2013, and the current Windows version of Fusion don't read F3D; will a translator become available?
A: That would be a logical assumption. In the mean time, most people use STEP [to export from Fusion to AutoCAD and so on]. Reading and writing will not be perfect.
Q: The press release states that "the software is fully interoperable with AutoCAD and Autodesk Inventor software." I am wondering what 'fully interoperable' means, because if models have to be exported as STEP files for use in AutoCAD and Inventor, then how is the Mac version interoperable?
A. It is fully interoperable in opening AutoCAD and Inventor data natively.
Q: Who do you see using it on Mac?
A: A lot of education students; on professional side, we see a broad range, from interior architects (doing mocks ups) to mechanical engineers (using it at home on their computers). It is new enough that we still learning how it will be used. Shapeways, the 3D printed parts supplier, has selected it for their training classes.
Q: Is Autodesk's WikiHelp site the primary source for tech support, or can Fusion/Mac users get support in other ways?
A. Users can also get support through
Q: The full name seems to be "Autodesk Inventor Fusion technology for Mac." Why does the word 'technology' appear? To me, this makes it sound like an unfinished, preview product.
A. On the Windows platform, Inventor Fusion is available as a Technology Preview. (Often times, Windows users may see updates and functionality being tested as part of the Technology Preview offering.) Autodesk Inventor Fusion technology for Mac is similar to the Inventor Fusion version offered in Product Design Suite, AutoCAD, and Inventor.
Q: Does a cross-platform Fusion mean you will port Inventor to the Mac?
A: Right now we are focusing just on Fusion; feedback will tell us the appeal for full Inventor.
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Out of the Inbox
Parametric Technology Corp is renovating 320,000 sqft at its Needham headquarters, and adding new software labs. Completion date is fall 2013.
More bad news for Autodesk: one day after releasing Service Pack 1 for AutoCAD 2013, Autodesk had to pull it due to a fatal error. [It serves one well not being the first to install an update.] http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/ps/dl/item?siteID=123112&id=20327837&linkID=9240618 The greater reason as to why this is bad news, is as Steve Johnson points out in http://www.blog.cadnauseam.com/2012/08/27/autocad-2013-service-pack-1-now-you-see-it-now-you-dont/, if this had been a cloud update, you might be staring at a dead AutoCAD this morning.
I complain about overly-wordy press releases, and so I get this from Vero Software: "Story and image attached about the forthcoming launch of VISI 20 at the IMTS exhibition." Xlation: VISI is mold and die software, and IMTS is the International Manufacturing Technology Show, this year in Chicago. New functions include pan and zoom files before opening, collaboration mode, assign constraints, distribute toolpath computation among computers, and a bunch of new CAM functions. http://vero-software.com
Competitor SmartCAM is up to V19.0, and gets new part-offset pattern and stay-down spiral options for editing tool paths. User Regions let you define wireframe machining regions with any combo of part and stock profiles. Lots more at http://www.SmartCAMcnc.com
SolidWorks 2013 is up to beta 3, and is due to ship October-ish, judging by past years. Bad new for corporations: it will not install on Windows XP. Sign up for your NDA at http://www.solidworks.com/beta
Remember that big DE8.16N promotion from a year ago? The one that promised to "change design as we know it" on Aug 16, but merely announced an update for Acad/Mac. According to http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-autocad-retooled-its-marketing-with-facebook/, Autodesk has over 600,000 Facebook fans; 850 watched the DE8.16N event live on Facebook, and another 2,200 watched the playback the first day.
ZWSOFT unveils ZWCAD Mechanical running on its rewritten ZWCAD+ CAD program. Features include drawing settings, BOMs, flexible dimensioning, an engineering calculator, DWG data viewer, and jigsaw printing. 30-day demo from http://www.zwsoft.com/products/zwcad_mechanical.html
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On our blogs
Here are some of the items that appeared during the last week on our WorldCAD Access blog at http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com:
And at our Gizmos Grabowski blog <http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/gizmos/>:
"No doubt playing cards will be next. After all, playing cards are rectangular with rounded corners! They stole Apple's design 300 years before Apple
invented it! They must be punished."
- kawabago on Groklaw
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