When the Apple iPad was unveiled it was hard, as an architect, to not immediately wonder if it would be a great device to draw on. How could one resist the thought of a digital notebook?
Of course drawing comes in two forms for an architect, if not more than two forms. There is firstly, sketching. There is secondly, drafting. These days the plethora of apps for the first form of drawing on the iPad are somewhat abundant. But what of the second form, what of drafting?
That’s where the co-founders of Orange Juice Studios come in. Vimal and Az are two professional engineers and architects (Vimal is the engineer and Az the architect) who have joined forces to conquerer the market in the area of mobile tablet CAD authoring, remarkably, an area of the App Store devoid of the heavy hitters in professional CAD (computer-aided design) software for the desktop. This of course begs an obvious set of questions, the first of which, why aren’t the big players taking over this segment of the app market with their own mobile CAD apps for iPad and Android devices?
Fear of Erosion: The Threat From Beneath
“The thought in the beginning for us was this,” remarks Vimal Bhana, “the incumbents don’t want to create a great app for CAD on the tablet devices because doing so would likely erode their sales on the desktop.” That’s one of the key arguments and an interesting explanation to my sharp commentary that if one hasn’t noticed yet, none of the major CAD developers have seriously put out a CAD authoring app on say the iPad yet.
In truth, while the CAD software leaders have initially focused on CAD file viewing, markup and collaboration features, some of them, including Autodesk, have added the true capacity to actually draw in the second form: draft.
“It’s also hard to do,” says Vimal, noting that the multitouch interface itself presents serious limitations and constraints to doing highly precise types of drawing on a screen that is controlled by a finger, “from the user-interface perspective. To truly do CAD authoring on mobile requires rethinking the traditional UI paradigm found in most CAD tools, making it relevant for how a user interacts with touch-based devices.”
Attzaz Rashid, who goes by Az, noted that one of the problems with the CAD industry is that people don’t even use 50 percent of all the features in a typical program. “With CADO we aim to provide the essential tools that CAD users actually need,” he said.
The Initial Market Not the Now Market
One of the persistent challenges we continually hear facing iOS developers, or simply developers of any mobile platform, is that the market is so new that there are numerous unknowns associated with hit. Vimal and Az initially thought CADO would be in high demand by professional CAD users but the company ran an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign and gained a ton of data on who actually is interested in CADO and for what reason.
“Our Kickstarter didn’t meet its financial goals,” muses Az softly, “but it was a total success from the point of view of understanding audience. “When we got into this we started by thinking about the pro user but now we think about the new CAD user. We want to keep focused on ease-of-use and ultimately of one-finger operation.”
When asked how they were going to find these new users, what channels of marketing they were looking at the duo had an interesting answer. “We are boot strapping this startup and have from the very beginning,” says Vimal. “We are speaking at some conferences this year, including one in Barcelona and it will be through channels like that and doing this kind of thing with publications like yours that we hope to get the word out in general.”
While Vimal and Az are ultimately unsure of what market is going to grasp onto a really good tablet CAD authoring app, the one thing they are certain of is their belief that they have mastered one in CADO. “We have spent so much time on our interface and our software programmer is the right guy with tons of experience in the gaming industry,” notes Az. “The app is entirely OpenGL based and solves the problem of how to get the cursor out from under your finger.”
We have looked at CADO at the past and the application looks innovative, which partly explains why it has taken so long to get out the door. When I asked if the company has been approached by any larger existing CAD players Az noted that several approached them actually. “They were curious and wanted to know if maybe they might be able to help. We had some very interesting conversations with people but we are determined to launch this product ourselves.”
Of the three iOS developers in our story series, the London duo of Vimal and Az are the only ones who haven’t reached the App Store yet. They report they are very close, just a few months away and those Kickstarter folks who were clamoring for the app will be delighted when the product actually ships. And if the product meets the expectations and confidence Vimal and Az both have in it so will many others.
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