No bigger surprise development in the AEC software industry has been Trimble’s new position as a true AEC software ‘superpower.’ The company started to venture into the design side of AEC software (it is a very strong player in the construction side with both hard and soft technologies) a few years ago. One of the more interesting acquisitions was Tekla, a Finnish structural engineering BIM capable software package with a global presence across Scandinavia, Europe, the United States and Asia. Tekla is a committed Open BIM member company and a firm believer in open industry standards.
But then the company acquired SketchUp from Google a few years ago. The independent software superstar left the vastness of the Google nest for more appropriate parents. Now, only recently in fact, Trimble acquired Gehry Technologies’ dominant newer assets in its technology savvy GTeam offering, renaming it Trimble Connect in the process. Suddenly, Trimble looks like a full service AECO BIM company with leading BIM tools at the front end of the design-build-delivery process.
From our perspective, what is shaping up with SketchUp at Trimble is quite fascinating, especially as the company is a committed believer in open industry standards. Where is SketchUp headed…? Where is Trimble headed with SketchUp? These are some of the things that interest us and readers alike. In this interview with long-time product director of SketchUp, John Bacus, he discusses SketchUp 2015 and answers many of our questions.
AFR (Anthony Frausto-Robledo): Why did Trimble release two updates in one single year for SketchUp? What drove the decision to squeeze another update in 2014? And might users expect this to happen again in the future?
JB (John Bacus): At our first 3D Basecamp after moving from Google to Trimble , I committed to a new SketchUp release every year. I’m pleased that we’ve been able to do that. Additionally, we launched two major web properties this year – the new 3D Warehouse with SketchUp 2014 and Trimble Connect with SketchUp 2015.
We launch new SketchUp releases when they’re ready for the user community, and that doesn’t always happen on a fixed schedule. Some features take longer to implement and test than others. I can’t comment on the specifics of our future roadmap, but folks should expect a new release each year.
AFR: Between the 2014 and 2015 releases the SketchUp team seems to be in 6th gear! A lot has been delivered in a short period of time. Why is this happening compared to the days when Google owned SketchUp? Clearly the core SketchUp team is the same, but what is different now compared to back then?
JB: The pull from SketchUp 8 to SketchUp 2013 was a pretty long one, but prior to that we were on a roughly 18-month development cycle. Development priorities were different at Google, but it should be clear to everyone that SketchUp plays a pretty strategic role at Trimble. Our team is energized by the drive that Trimble has towards fundamental change in the way that the work of making buildings gets done.
The core SketchUp development team has been largely the same through a startup and two acquisitions now, and we’ve really learned how to work efficiently together. That said, we’ve also been able to spread our wings a bit wider at Trimble and I think that is really starting to show in the increased velocity of our development efforts. Our vision for SketchUp remains the same, but our ability to execute has grown.
AFR: Can you talk about how Trimble is viewing SketchUp from the point of view of the BIM transformation within AEC, both from the point of view of the design side and the construction side?
JB: Trimble is committed to transforming industry processes, and SketchUp plays a significant role in that.
Trimble views design and construction as but two phases in a continuum, and we believe firmly in giving our customers the freedom to choose the best tools for the job, whatever their role in whichever phase of that continuum. At the core of this is liberating data for the highest level of interoperability possible. For years, SketchUp users have asked us to improve data interoperability and offer better ways to collaborate with others. We want to break down the barriers and create collaboration across and within disciplines. We recently announced Trimble Connect to drive this type of collaboration and enable the use of many BIM tools in the same project with a high level of interoperability. We feel strongly the customer should be able to choose solutions optimized for the job.
AFR: As the rebranded GTeam, will Trimble Connect eventually work to a default file format that Trimble controls such as SketchUp, providing additional features for that file format or will Trimble keep things open-standards based and centered around file formats like IFC?
next page: Interview continues