Celebrating Our 800th Issue!
Issue #800 | December 3 2013
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In This Issue
1. Open SimScale Takes on Proprietary SIM
2. Heard in Twitter
3. Letters to the Editor
From the editor: This is the 800th issue, counting back to the very first issue back in 1995 when upFront.eZine launched as the very first indepdent CAD newsletter distributed by email. Now I take my annual break for Christmas, so see you again on January 7.
Open SimScale Takes on Proprietary SIM
SimScale is a new German startup that has put CAD simulation in the Web browser. Co-founder David Heiny is the one in charge of product development, and he spoke with me last Thursday.
David Heiny: We came up with a new way for how design engineers can simulate their designs. We ourselves come from CAE [computer aided engineering] consulting space, and we had asked German companies how they would like to access sim [simulation] technology. So we came up with a system in which you need just an Internet connection and a Web browser: you upload models, and then run simulations.
Ralph Grabowski: What sim engine are you using?
David Heiny: We are developing a generic CAE environment. We can plug in different meshing algorithms, different solvers. We are capable of fluid flow analyses and other simulation types. It is partly open source code, with some code developed on our own. Engineering offices sometimes develop their own simulation software, and so we plan to provide them with a Web platform: this is our medium-range plan.
Ralph Grabowski: I didn't realize that design firms have their own simulation tech.
David Heiny: Not design firms, but specialized engineering offices that do their own. For example, there are some that have specific code for fluid flow analysis, but currently engineers can access the software through a Linux shell. We can make it available through a browser and a graphical interface.
Ralph Grabowski: What your geographic area?
David Heiny: The founders met at Munich Technical University, and so we are currently focused on Germany speaking countries in Europe. Most of our customers are Germany firms. We plan to expand first to North America.
Ralph Grabowski: Which browsers work with your system? After all, not "any" browser works.
David Heiny: The only thing special about our app is that the browser has to support WebGL, like Firefox, Opera, and Safari but not Internet Explorer. No Web plug-in is required.
Ralph Grabowski: What kind of files can users upload?
David Heiny: We support generic formats, no vendor formats yet. STEP, IGES, BREP, and STL, but STEP is the recommended format. In the future, we will add proprietary formats.
Ralph Grabowski: Autodesk says that simulation should be available even to neophytes who have no idea what they are doing. Does your software target inexperienced users?
David Heiny: We feel that people who understand the physics and know their problem should be able to set up a simulation. If you do not understand the physics, then there is no point to running a simulation, because you will not understand the results. You should have some knowledge of results.
Now, because it is in a Web browser, an engineer can share the results with an analyst, who can explain the meaning to the engineer. Simulations should not be so expensive that only people who work with simulation all day long have access to the software -- this is an old idea.
Ralph Grabowski: How does the pricing work?
David Heiny: There is a free plan with one simulation type to show how the platform works, where users can run as many simulations as they want, but only of static analysis. This lets you test it out with no pressure.
The pricing is a monthly subscription fee that includes some computing time, and all features. The only limitation is computing power; you have a quota per month. If you need more, you can get more. Plans such as the Pro plan (e250/month) give 200 computer core hours while the Power Plan gives 1500 core hours for more computationally-intense simulations like fluid dynamics. Beyond this, more computing power can be added on-demand.
We first had only on-demand pricing, but users did not like that once they clicked they got charged, and so they thought very carefully before getting charged. People did like that every click was a cost. So we switched to the subscription model.
Ralph Grabowski: Who are your competitors?
David Heiny: There are a few companies active in that field, that all do things a bit differently. We found that the boundaries between competitors and partners is quite fluid. There is one other firm we know about that is trying to build models online and then performing simulation. Autodesk's approach with Sim 360 is technically different, because you have to install something on your local machine rather than using a Web browser.
What we are proud of is that we are not trying to build a front end to a solver for one specific application; we are trying building a generic platform that is able to deliver a variety of packages. For engineers, it is valuable to also access fluid flow and structural analysis. acoustics, thermodynamics, and so on.
The point is that there is not one solver, but many. Mainly open source solvers, like OpenFOAM, CalculiX, Code_Aster and SU2.
Ralph Grabowski: I didn't realize there are so many open source solvers?
David Heiny: Yes, we are active in that community. What most people don't know about open source is that is developed by companies who are looking for security, so that outsiders can find bugs in the code.
Our browser interface also gives the opportunity for proprietary solvers to be hosted inside just those firms who use it.
From the editor: to replace the now-discontinued Out of the Inbox, I recommend Roopinder Tara's Tenlinks Daily Newsletter with daily listings of press releases and articles. Sign up at http://www.tenlinks.com/news/sub_unsub.htm.
KOMPAS-3D was always a history-based parametric modeler, but now ASCON gives V14 Direct Variation Modeling that lets us edit 3D models directly, and tie them down with geometric and dimension constraints. Other V14 functions: stores all revisions in the same file; change models using tolerances; link arrays to tables; and new add-ons, like 3D cable design. 30-day free trial from http://ascon.net/en/download/kompas.
Heard In Twitter
Chris C. Kemp (@Kemp): It is not enough to trust your public cloud provider. You must trust everyone between you and your data
Vladimir Michl (@VMichl): AutoCAD ecscad is being retired, will be developed again by MuM. Customers can switch to ACAD Electrical, or to an add-on, or to OEM ECSCAD.
Letters to the Editor
Re: The State of portableCAD in 2013
"Immediately translated for isicad.ru: http://isicad.ru/ru/articles.php?article_num=16614 "
- David Levin
"Although we are not a traditional CAD software firm, with a 3500-user base and IFC and DWG export, I beleive we should be included in your list. We have far stronger functionality than simple DWG or 3D model viewers. Besides a complete surveying tool we are just a few steps from becoming a strong drafting tool.
"Anyway reflecting your thoughts, we have approximately 30% active customers daily within our user base, and we are about to introduce a subscription model. We are not coming from the free or freemium model; as as an indie developer, we could not afford that luxury. If we could, our counter would stand over the 30K mark.
"Moreover, our cloud function is a way more advanced than simple Dropbox sharing (which we also offer). We introduced a collaboration environment allowing several users to modify the same survey project. Projects are stored with versioning, allowing rollback. Projects can be merged, allowing real teamwork on the same site/project."
- Laszlo Toth, General Manager
The editor replies: "OrthoGraph Architect does not run on Android (yet), and so could not be included in my list of sales. There were so many other Android-based CAD-oriented programs that I could not include them all."
"Regarding your latest newsletter below, the name of our android application to view free 3D models is TFTPad instead of TFTtab."
- Jean-Luc Brocard, COO
"When you stated these two points below I think you misrepresent the vendors to your readers: 'Writing for iOS is difficult, because of Apple's secrecy (most hardware specs are unknown).' If the specification is so secret then what are the 400,000+ software developers doing? 500,000+ if you combine iPhone and iPad developers/apps.
"'While writing for Android is difficult because of device targeting.' No kidding. Devices are superseded as soon as three months after release, screen resolutions, varieties of CPU/SoC, screen sizes, screen quality. Even Samsung announced their Galaxy S 4 a week after releasing their Galaxy S 3!
"'The other problem, of course, is that apps sell for free, or nearly free, especially after Apple takes its 30% cut'. You completely contradict your own assertions. First you say the problem is free apps, but aren't 90%+ of the Android market free? Then you imply that it's Apple's fault that they apply a flat percentage to all vendors for selling software, which actually means that 80%+ of apps in the Apple marketplaces are actually sold. The other important point is that 75% or more of these devices are Android devices. So in actual fact there is little or no money in the Android market for software vendors.
"I'm not having a go at you, I'm just stating that you could have had a bit deeper look into the numbers you're talking about in your article."
- Robert McCartney
The editor replies: "Sure, I'll take you on! When I spoke and wrote about some of these topics, I covered them in greater detail in earlier talks. Last week, the first few paragraphs were a summary of these earlier reports.
"You are speaking of two different groups of developers. The vast majority develop apps (Cut the Rope, etc) and are unconcerned about using the hardware to the max. The other group are CAD vendors. When the hardware limits them, they need to know. On Androids, they know; on iOS (and even OS X) devices, they are unsure.
"Developers tell me they are torn between the two platforms for the reasons I stated. Neither is ideal.
"Google is working on the problem, and with each release of Android the OS does more of the work in handling aspects of programs that need to know the hardware. Smartphone apps work better on Android tablets than on iPads, because Android uses scalable vector graphics, while iOS uses raster -- hence the awkward 2x button for iPhone apps running on iPads. Even though the ceo of Apple likes bashing Google about the lack of tablet-specific apps, this is a red herring to cover up the fact that iPhone apps HAVE to be rewritten for iPads; on Android, they don't.
"As for the percentage of iOS apps making money, fewer are now that some 90% of apps are free. Vendors get around the 30% tax through methods described in my report. For comparison, Google charges 5%.
"Towards the end of your letter, you fling around statistics without engaging in research of the current situation."
Mr McCartney responds: "For earning income, the developers I know choose the iOS platform because they know what they get. Android development for larger apps is usually at the cost of the app and subsidised by other revenue like in-app purchases or in-app advertisements. In-app advert's are also taking place in iOS to subsidise long term revenue. Autodesk have CAD viewing apps, Bentley have CAD viewing apps, there's a Solidworks app, and even ArchiCAD have an iOS app in the pipeline.
"Google and the Android developers work the open platform, they do not have influence over hardware vendors by choice as is their business model. Even Samsung's front end is now non-recognisable as an Android platform.
"The 2x button is for developers who have only developed their app to run on the iPhone form factor and want to run the app on an iPad. That's been public knowledge for four years now since iPad was launched.
"The development platform xCode, which I develop on, allows a single app to function on all form device factors. It requires development of the app with all graphics resolutions done simultaneously. When it is installed the app knows the platform it is installed on. I develop on the platform. Most of the work is done on graphics, vectoring and screen dynamics like the interface, controls, dialogs, and content.
"When developing the back code for number crunching it doesn't matter, the front end and interface can be allocated per platform screen size, iPad, or iPhone. Most developers I know only develop on a single platform which depends on their target market due to multi-device development cost in labour.
"That's where the $4 billion in app developer profit comes from (after the 30% fee), but not from the Android market. There remains no developer profit in the Android market.
"Google charges 5% only when a developer chooses to sell an app via Google Play. Outside of that environment, where most of the users download their apps they are free, and are not checked for things such as Trojans, data syphoning, virus. Google Play currently hosts around a billion apps now, all are apparently free of charge; the majority would not be checked for integrity nor security, free means zero profit unless the developer has in-app purchasing or in-app advertising. Google's revenue objective is search advertisement revenue; app revenue will always play second fiddle."
"In your most recent eZine, you listed the number of BIMx downloads as 10,000+. As far as BIMx on Android is concerned, our numbers show that 100,000 were downloaded via the Google Play store, and 300,000 in the Apple App store. I am assuming you were referring only to BIMx, the free app. BIMx Docs is not a free app, nor is it available on Android tablets yet."
- Mary Moscarello, Media Relations
The editor replies: "Thank you for the update. Google Store today shows 50,000 - 100,000. When I collected the number in early October (two months ago), it was 10,000+, meaning there were between 10,000 and 50,000 downloads. I can see that in two months the number could have gone from under 50,000 to over 50,000."
Spin Doctor of the Moment
"Gone are the days, probably, of the keyboard, mouse and maybe even touch input."
- Shoneel Kolhatkar, Samsung
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Entire contents copyright 2013 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $840. 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.