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Exclusive Interview: Carl Bass talks to Architosh about Apple in the CAD/3D industries

This is the first article in our 2011 State of Apple in CAD/3D Industries, special series. Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, talks to Architosh about his company, its understanding of the growing Mac market and the role of iOS devices like iPads in fields like architecture and engineering and how Autodesk will respond to changes in the market.

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CB: Yeah. Again, in general both the tablet, the iPad, and the phone give mobile users a different level of access to their information. So it’s a combination of phone and camera as well as a work surface, allowing them to do a lot more outside the office than they were ever able to do before. A mixture of communication, collaboration and out-of-the-office work. These are just fantastic devices.

AFR: Now my next question has to do with the various acquisitions you have made over the years. Autodesk has acquired many smaller companies who had excellent cross-platform solutions, starting most significantly with Maya. Given Apple’s rise, did Autodesk see this coming? Did you make these acquistions because you were looking for cross-platform capability to serve a changing market?

CB: I’d like to say we were that clarivoyant, but the truth is we knew that the Mac in particular was becoming much more popular amongst our customers. But when it comes to acquisitions we’ve been fortunate that many have been cross-platform Mac applications but actually quite a few have not been. So it’s been a consideration but it’s not the driving force. But it’s been obvious for quite awhile–the rising importance of the Mac as a platform. And it’s only been accelerated by the introduction of the iOS devices.

AFR: Does the market for iOS change the nature of where you may target future acquisitions?

CB: While yeah, we are certainly aware when we have been looking–it’s a part of the consideration set. Not just with the acquisitions but the products we are currently building. Right now it would be hard to have a designer-engineering application where you didn’t think about what you were going to do around mobility.  It’s kind of like the switch when everyone suddenly had mice, if you kept building applications just for the keyboard, you would have been equally crazy. The same thing is true now with [Multi-] touch. Even if you look at some of the web services we are rolling out–recently we invented this really cool application that allows you to take photographs and turn them into a 3D model…it’s called Photofly–and, for example, not only do you need to be able to do that with a fancy camera but you want it to work with your cell phone’s camera, upload your photos from your phone and then bring back the generated 3D model and view it on your cell phone. And all of that is now possible.

AFR: Right, that is an excellent example.

CB: Yes, it’s a good example of not only what is possible with mobile devices but marrying it up with what is possible with computing in the cloud.

AFR: Do you see the cloud and CAD headed for each other in a big way?

CB: Yes, I think the trick is knowing what things are appropriate.  There are certainly things that are appropriate for the cloud, there are things that are more appropriate for the desktop, and for the tablet and for the phone. And I think the trick is not only giving users the choice but making sure the appropriate ones are available.  So we are really contemplating all the various ways people want to access that information. So I think the cloud is a very important part.  For example, we just rolled out a new service called Project Neon and its rendering application service on the cloud. So you just hit a button and it goes off to the service and you just get back to work while it renders somewhere else instead of tying up your computer.  There are things that make for really nice blends that make for nicer workflows than the ones that people have available today.

AFR: So the cloud is altering workflows and enabling processes that make for more efficient production, giving users abilities that weren’t possible before.

CB: Yes, so whether you look at this idea of turning photos into models, or Autocad WS doing collaboration through the cloud, there is just a whole bunch of stuff that wasn’t possible before these new technologies.

AFR: I read some articles that you are quite a fan of the Apple iPad. Do you feel that this device is a game changer within the CAD world–the iPad itself?

next page: Bass talks about iPad

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Reader Comments

  1. Posted by:
    mcbim
    August 11, 2011 11:45 pm EDT

    So, why didn’t you as about Revit coming to the Mac or maybe making it run entirely in the browser like Solidworks is moving toward. It is just more loving the Mac but keeping the good stuff on the PC only.

  2. We didn’t ask about Revit or specific Autodesk app questions because this interview was one of several addressing higher level issues. That was our chosen focus, which was overall state of affairs of Apple in CAD/3D. We understand your perspective though and appreciate it and your comment is valid.

    By the way, just because we didn’t publish doesn’t mean we didn’t ask. You are making assumptions that may be completely wrong. In many cases we may ask and may even get answers but they are “off the record” or use our judgement about what to share that may be sensitive.

  3. UTC,

    I will add that we approached five CEOs with more or less the same batch of questions to help us coax out this series of articles. Bass’s interview got a little more detailed because we held it on the phone. And it had a life of its own. We thought it made for an engaging read and we think his comments are super interesting and informative, sans comments about Revit.

  4. Posted by:
    username
    August 16, 2011 04:06 pm EDT

    Mixed feelings… For Apple it might be good if Autodesk wouid succeed. For architects – not so sure! (For CAD/BIM-operators and allied con artists: absolutely, definitely so.)

  5. Not sure where you are going with the con artists comment about CAD/BIM operators…like architects. Perhaps you can elaborate on your mixed feelings comment.

  6. […] Exclusive Interview: Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, talks to Architosh about Apple in the CAD/3D indust…. We have had more than six million downloads of SketchBook mobile. We’ve had almost two million downloads of AutodCAD WS in a fraction of the time SketchBook has been available. Even things like TinkerBox…we’ve had over a million downloads of that. So I think when you look at the numbers they speak for themselves. It shows you just how popular and compelling those devices are. […]

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