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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: I think the iPad in the CAD world is a great supplement. I don’t see it in the short term replacing desktops and laptops–those are just too powerful. But I do think it is changing things. More broadly when you think of CAD design and engineering, when you think of being able to bring the latest drawings into the field, into a meeting…there is just deep value there. For example, here at the airport instead of having manuals for repairs on an airplane out on the tarmac you can have an iPad which would have all the up-to-date instructions in 3D. So I see it as a great compliment. It’s rarely going to be your primary creation device, but it certainly is a game changer in the ways we will access that information and collaborate.

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AFR: I read recently in a market report that said that up to 80 percent of incoming freshman on collage campuses were buying Mac computers. And I was stunned to read this. Things have obviously really changed in the last few years. These are many of your future customers. How will Autodesk respond to this new generation of users?  Clearly they are thinking differently…how will Autodesk respond?

CB: Well first I think this trend for students using Macs has been going on for a really long time. The Mac has always been the dominant computer on campus. 80 percent wasn’t a number I was familiar with, but it sounds reasonable to me. You know the interesting thing is that people have been running applications on the Mac for a long time–particularly students.

AFR: How so?

CB: The thing that is interesting from our point of view is that we’ve seen students in particular running applications, whether native or PC applications running in virtual environments, on Mac hardware for a really long time. On college campuses we’ve seen almost all of our software running on Macs for a really long time.

AFR: Really? How long are we talking about here?

CB: Ten years.

AFR: Wow!

CB: You know the Mac has always been the dominant device on college campuses. I think as you move forward the change is that people now have an expectation of also their iPhones and iPads being very capable computing devices and doing more and more stuff there. So ultimately the bigger change on campus is not being Mac per se–which has been very popular for a very long time now–but people now have expectations of being able to do work now on their phones and tablets.

AFR: That is really very interesting perspective. Going forward then what are some special things that Autodesk may be bringing to market strategically?

CB: I think you are going to see a ton of new applications on mobile devices and on the tablet, and I think an interesting combination of technologies that combine what is possible on the cloud with what is possible on the local device.

AFR: So there is definitely a mission to really see the mobile devices as almost being an equal player with what is going on on the desktop…

CB: Yes, if you recall when we released our SketchBook Mobile application. 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.

AFR: And when you say downloads are you referring to the Mac App store and the iTunes store?

CB: Yup.

AFR: That is interesting because a lot of professional software makers are really still hesitant to put their wares on those stores because they sell for a lot, and a lot of the apps on those stores are inexpensive.

CB: Yeah, while I think when you look at what we have up there too they are relatively inexpensive but when you think in terms of broad distribution they are incredibly effective.

AFR: Thanks for talking to me today about the market.

CB: You are very welcome.

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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. […]

Comments are closed.

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