[Edit. Note: This article saw further minor edits on 1 Jan 2015, 8:55 am. EDT]
It’s that time of year when publications far and wide sum up the year’s biggest highlights. The general goal is to ask and answer the question: 2014 was the year of the “fill-in the blank”?
The Biggest News Items of 2014
Trimble on the Move
2014 saw some of the most stunning acquisitions taking place in the software world serving both CAD and 3D professionals. Two acquisitions in particular stood out as they affect Mac-based CAD professionals the most. The first of these is the acquisition of Gehry Technologies by Trimble Navigation Limited. This major move by Trimble saw Gehry Technologies’ innovative and promising GTeam online BIM-based collaboration tool become Trimble Connect.
Trimble is a company that is fast-moving in the AEC software space as it gains traction on the design-side of the BIM workflow. First Tekla, then SketchUp, and now GTeam means it is also a design-side BIM software company with very deep pockets. One of the reasons why Frank Gehry decided on Trimble, acknowledging that there were other offers, is because Trimble could throw a lot of software programmers at GTeam. Similarly, Bacus told this author that a similar capability was an attraction when Trimble acquired SketchUp from Google.
What’s particular interesting to think about is the idea that both SketchUp and GTeam may blossom rapidly into much more expansive tools given the bandwidth now available to their development under Trimble. Moreover, Trimble has broad plans to link all their applications under the umbrella term “Trimble Connected.”
Nemetschek AG Lands Big in US Construction
The second big acquisition announced this year of major importance to the markets we cover was the Nemetschek AG acquisition of Bluebeam Software Inc. The details of that announcement discusses the mutual compliments the two companies offer each other. In a nutshell, Bluebeam rules in major US construction companies but will gain broad access to major construction markets in Asia and Europe where the Nemetschek Group is particularly strong. In exchange, Bluebeam’s new status as a Nemetschek Group company aims to expose the group’s superb AEC software set to new customers within the world’s largest construction industry.
The effect of this acquisition goes beyond adding one more growing and profitable software house to the German holding company—it offers synergistic low-hanging fruit between Nemetschek’s many BIM applications and Bluebeam’s collaboration studio tools for construction and design professionals. Importantly, for this site’s many readers, we should probably expect to see a speedup on the development and release of a native Mac version of Bluebeam’s desktop software, because this will be key for the group’s many European customers in particular.
GRAPHISOFT Wins Big in Japan
Back to one of the Nemetschek Group’s holdings, Graphisoft of Hungary started the year with some major news in Japan. The company, in March of 2014, announced major partnerships and adoption by four of the five largest Japanese AEC companies, including, Nikken Sekkei (4th ranked global architecture firm), Maeda Corporation, Kajima Corporation, and Obayashi Corporation. Most of these companies were already ArchiCAD customers but the formal announcements at the BIMcloud event in Toyko solidified and formalized adoption further and in particular the partnership with Nikken Sekkei really saw significant commitment and future offspring potential.
To unpack this more for readers, what the latter partnership means is that Graphisoft will develop custom solutions to meet Nikken Sekkei’s specific practice needs, but the fruit of that development is non-proprietary to Nikken Sekkei. That’s not a concern for the 4th largest architecture firm in the world, where a natural partnering culture, a legacy carry-over from the Japanese cultural history of keiretsu enterprises, encourages sharing of knowledge and expertise to benefit all (in Japan).
What we believe may be coming down the pike for ArchiCAD users worldwide is onboard support for Rhino in the way of round-trip interoperability. This is speculation on our part but Nikken Sekkei really utilizes Rhino so much that the company wrote its own translator between the two. They also did so for connecting their own structural analysis software to Tekla for modeling and documentation. Note, that Tekla is a Trimble company and a supporter of Open BIM.
Autodesk and Openness
Although not a news item in its own right, one of the more interesting things this author heard this year came from Angi Izzi, who is head of global strategy and business development at Autodesk for its AEC markets. During a private press meeting at AIA 2014 in Chicago, Ms. Izzi noted, on several occasions during the talk, that Autodesk is further embracing openness within the industry and recognizes that not all AEC customers will choose to round-out their workflows with all-Autodesk solutions.
Autodesk’s openness in terms of platform and devices is being duly noted in our latest executive features coverage where, on the record, the company touts this requirement of openness; so Ms. Izzi’s comments are not unique. During the Graphisoft Japan BIMcloud event it was noted during the presentations, in front of press and its major Japanese customers, that the culture of partnership in Japan (already mentioned above) matched better with the Nemetschek Group’s Open BIM and buildingSMART worldview than with US-based giant Autodesk and its worldview.
So what does this really mean?
In the world’s largest AEC market—the United States—Autodesk is enjoying not only the benefits of its dominant marketshare (thanks to the history of AutoCAD) among AEC firms, but the “Kleenex-type” branding of BIM as Revit. In the same way American’s say “I need a Kleenex” when they need to sneeze and want a tissue, far too many US-based architects and AEC pros say “we have moved to BIM” when what they mean to say is they have adopted and started to use Revit.
I suppose this is the same problem Yahoo and Microsoft have with the Net-era verbal phrase “just google it.”
While Autodesk may benefit from this mostly US-based narrow understanding, to its credit the company holds strategic advisory council membership with buildingSMART International and thus, by default, must stand behind the adoption of Open BIM and the development of open industry standards.
Looking down the line, at Architosh we see openness always in two ways: adoption of open industry standards for interoperability, and the targeting of multiple devices and platforms which are existent and popular. On this latter front Autodesk as a company is ambitiously doing this through its 360 platform cloud initiatives. Many hope that this is just their way of buying time on the Revit front so they can eventually target OS X at a very high level. As it stands today, many architects are running Revit on Macs on Boot Camp mode and have no plans to ditch their Macs.
2014 has been an engaging year for AEC software journalism. There have been many exciting stories and changes in the industry. To summarize the four big items noted above, we have three big key software multinationals competing globally for users’ attention and fidelity. All of them possess and hold much beloved and key software tools, and all of them are directly competing with each other. An Apple vs Microsoft race is not what is ultimately in the best interest for the AEC industry so this trifecta of superpowers shaping up does something that Apple and Microsoft never managed to do—cooperate.
And it’s cooperation that ultimately is in the best interests of the end users in the AEC industry.
next page: 10 Stand-Out Players to Watch in 2015