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AutoCAD Sledgehammer for Mac in the wild

Autodesk appears serious about releasing AutoCAD for Mac. The rumors have spilled over to screenshots. But we think its more than rumors and screen shots this time.

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Why Now and Why AutoCAD

For over a decade Architosh alone has tracked the desire and dismissal of AutoCAD on the Mac. It has been the number one item our readers have been drawn to request, debate and discuss for ten years. Earlier in the decade we published an in-depth survey report with Cyon Research on AutoCAD on the Mac. We had collected more than 5000 responses over several years. Autodesk itself has been collecting interest too.

Still, no AutoCAD for Mac!

The interest in AutoCAD for Mac started strongly with the architecture crowd over ten years ago but today we can safely say that interest with that group has swung over to Autodesk Revit. Perhaps that is why Autodesk appears ready to release a native version of AutoCAD now…it doesn’t strategically matter all that much! But matter in what way?

For years pundits, insiders and users (Apple’s and Autodesk’s) have speculated why the company was refusing (or excusing…depending on how you look at it) to produce a native version of AutoCAD for Mac. A leading theory was because Autodesk and Apple compete head to head for the same coveted customers: creatives!

The theory goes, if Autodesk helped Apple become too popular and allow the Mac market to take off Apple might eventually decide to enter the design software market itself. This way, if Apple was still lingering with its Mac market share Autodesk’s design software market was safe from a hostile competitive threat from a looming Jobs & Co. While the Mac market lingered or grew at tiny percentages Autodesk went on to quadruple its revenues and expand its product portfolio by leaps and bounds.

The Double Halo-Effect

But a looming Jobs & Co. did emerge after all. While Autodesk was growing so too was Apple, by even larger factors. It just didn’t grow by way of the Mac. Instead, Apple’s Mac division continues to expand at a steadily growing rate due to “halo-effects” caused by its smash-hit products.

While the first smash hit was the iPod it really wasn’t until the iPhone that Apple had a real engine driver for the Mac. Now with the iPad–which looks to be an even bigger hit than the iPhone (hard to imagine, isn’t it?) — Apple’s Mac division seems poised for continued expansion at the benefit of a double Halo-Effect.

In a recent Bloomberg feature piece on Autodesk CEO Carl Bass it appears that the company is getting something that many companies are still not getting. And that is: people want simple tools that are powerful. Apple is making money hand over fist with products, software and services that are at heart, simple.

So too is Google and many other successful newcomers.

In the Bloomberg piece Bass says that he is using Autodesk products himself. Beyond their use in his wood shop studio he is providing critical feedback (Steve Jobs-style) to his software teams. He questions why his own products take 40 minutes to install and laments the fact that his $5000 software doesn’t look as good as a $49 video game.

Take a look again at those AutoCAD Sledgehammer screen shots and the video. What do really see going on here?

Apple-Like

What we see is a product that is clueing into Apple’s way of doing things. We see Apple’s Multi-touch (itself a state-of-the-Art on where Apple is steering simplicity) and we see a much more attractive user-interface with its stylish dark toolbar palettes. In other words we see Carl Bass in Sledgehammer.

The Bloomberg article is right about one thing too. Carol Bartz is a hard act to follow. Bass probably can’t grow the company as much as she did, but he can make it incredibly cooler and still grow it quite a bit. And he can do that by attaching himself to Jobs & Co. and their continued innovation train.

So back to that question of why now and why AutoCAD. The answer is simple. We just wonder why it took them so long.

[Editor's note: some key comments on this story on below in the Comments area.]

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