[Image: Wiki Commons, copyright Thomas Wolf, www.foto-tw.de – all rights reserved]
First Place Isn’t The Point
Graebert invited users, partners, and the press to their 2014 Annual Meeting in Berlin Oct 9-10. Typically, the annual meeting would not be open to the press, so this year was special. Day one events were held in a small venue called the Snuggery Theater in Berlin that is typically used for startup presentations—an old repurposed theater very appropriate for the day’s events. Day two events were held at the company headquarters for morning meetings and workshops.
Wilfried Graebert, in a black mock-turtleneck and jeans, delivered opening remarks with exciting news about the company: there are almost 7M CAD seats based on ARES with 3M users on ARES itself. The Graebert CAD engine is included in OEM products such as Dassault Systemés DraftSight, Corel Corporation’s CorelCAD, several other OEMs, in addition to the flagship product itself ARES Commander Edition. Users and partners acknowledged at the event were from the US, Brazil, Japan, Taiwan, China, India and all over the EU.
This presented Graebert as a world class CAD company but with small company customer values, relationships, and strong response to customer needs—developing what they see as a strong CAD market with some niche requirements needing fulfillment.
A Pioneer and ODA Roots
Graebert has long been involved in the Open Design Alliance which promotes Open DWG standards. And back in 2000, Graebert introduced SiteMaster on Windows CE as an early CAD developer on a mobile device. This identity and history has helped shape Graebert to the 2014 Annual Meeting where they are releasing ARES Commander 2015, ARES TOUCH on Android, SiteMaster BIM & Kitchen, and introducing ARES Mechanical 2015.
The most important announcement was the ARES TOUCH introduction. Graebert believes this to be the first full-fledged mobile CAD system on the market. The opening presentation covered much of the development and background on ARES TOUCH, including some heavy market research through IDC for projected hardware and software over the next several years which illustrated their reasoning and justifications for ARES TOUCH starting on Android rather than Apple iOS.
This decision by Graebert to focus on Android first rather than Apple iOS is in direct opposition to its main CAD competitor—Autodesk itself—and it will be interesting to watch develop, especially after Apple’s recent partnership with IBM on iPad in enterprise industries.
By the Numbers
The PC market, including laptops, is projected to decline slightly while tablets, smartphones and “phablets” grow. Phablets, a mashup sizewise of a smartphone and a tablet, were projected to grow 60%. Growth for mobile OS’s (operating systems) was projected as follows: Android 203% to reach 227M; iOS at 79% growth to reach 118M; and Windows, a very distant third place, seeing growth reaching from 1-39M.
This theme was repeated a few times over the meeting but also included Graebert’s multi-platform approach to their products–ARES TOUCH will be brought to iOS next. Dates were not given, but hearing that plan and seeing their history, it should not be too long.
The product was impressive in many ways, but one was that the company showed particular attention to moving desktop CAD to a “touch” interface. Attention to detail was apparent and Graebert wanted it right to include things like multi-touch and gestures.
Not Just the TOUCH
But ARES TOUCH wasn’t all. ARES Commander 2015 was shown with focus on optimization, social, and migration. What was most impressive about ARES 2015 was that it was the core for other developments and announcements while being the foundation of a company strategy—a “Cross-Device CAD Experience.” This was shown in licensing strategies with the mobile being a part of the desktop license, or mobile could be purchased itself, or licenses could be flexible moving from machine to machine. This was a great acknowledgement to Graebert’s customer orientation, especially incorporating a mobile device into a larger office solution.
As already seen in press releases concurrent with the annual meeting event on Architosh, ARES Mechanical was also introduced and is to be released in 2015. This product was one of two that really showed the focus on specific needs identified in the market that might seem niche. Graebert presented ARES Mechanical as a solution to fit a grey space incorporating factory and mechanical design: some layout needs and some equipment design. So this product would share complementary tools to modelers such as Solidworks and also have very specified libraries for productivity for industrial factory clients.
This product too is envisioned to come to the Mac, as ARES is currently, but it does rely on some 2D constraint solvers that have been Windows only to date. This toolset is part of the Solidworks partnership and seeing it, it looks almost literally like some of the capabilities in Solidworks today with Constraints and Smart Dimensions. These tools will be powerful for the product and also important to come to the Mac, deepening the crossover that DraftSight has allowed SolidWorks into the Mac community.
SiteMaster Kitchen also built on this customized approach to productive CAD where productivity was described and demonstrated on the ARES CAD engine. SiteMaster Kitchen notably had specific dimensional checking and verifications critical for kitchen design and fabrication. These were part of a streamlined UI (user-interface) that was also capable of several customized reports for owners, consultants and suppliers.
Lasers are cool… and direct input for BIM
SiteMaster BIM is an evolution from Graebert’s Windows CE solution invented in 2000. The mobile capability of ARES TOUCH is a separate product, but this was striking on its own for mobility and power. A laser range-finder with bluetooth is paired with a Windows (wearable) tablet for both control and input. A single user can capture existing buildings very productively and quickly and have a building information model (walls, doors, windows and more) as a deliverable product. Apparently 1000 square meters can be typically captured (as processed BIM) a day. I was even told that up to 6 times this has been accomplished for a very productive (and profitable) building survey.
This tool seems to be a trojan horse that exhibits Graebert’s ODA roots that already supports IFC and DWG on a mobile device. Graebert will be strong in the AEC markets supporting BIM as well as CAD—especially Mechanical CAD with strong industrial ties and closely related to SolidWorks. And having demoed these solutions myself, it was quite impressive and conceiving of the future that these tools will play a part in. —- Pete Evans AIA, Senior Associate Editor
(disclosure: Graebert paid for air travel, hotel, and most meals during the event.)