Talking about the TurboCAD Brand
AFR (Anthony Frausto-Robledo): The TurboCAD brand is a venerated CAD brand with a long history, now on both platforms, and across various price points. Can you talk a bit about who is using these products, on which platforms and across these break points?
BM (Bob Mayer): Yeah, I’ll try to start at the most general level possible and then drill down. I think in general we like to characterize our buyer as a “prosumer”—someone who wants a lot of functionality but is a value type of buyer. And that is certainly something that has resonated over the past five or six years in our recessionary times. People in this category aren’t, necessarily, willing to spend a lot for a precision design product.
AFR: So how does that characterize you from your chief CAD rivals?
BM: So the value-buyer is sort of where we start with things…and that comes really from our history (as a company) in CAD. Unlike Autodesk who started at the top with the big iron play, we came at this market from a more consumer play, from the bottom up, where we began in the early 1990’s offering an under $100 dollar CAD.
And then over time we added a lot more functionality and from a feature perspective we are able to compete pretty well in what we call the mid-range CAD market.
General CAD: Mathematicians not Engineers
AFR: Now over all this time your CAD products have grown up, matured, tiered themselves to different price points, but all along stayed general. Why not make CAD products for specific markets?
BM: At IMSI-Design we have just felt more comfortable playing in this general CAD market which offers something for everyone. And our background supports this. It isn’t like we were architects or mechanical engineers who decided to make a CAD product; we had a more general precision design background, rooted in mathematics and we could then create those algorithms that could address the CAD market in a broad sense.
AFR: That makes sense. Sometimes being general can keep you open to where the market is possibly going to steer you.
BM: From a sales and marketing perspective, we have seen competitive opportunities by sticking to this middle ground.
AFR: Now correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me like your customers on the Windows side are more heavily engaged in the AEC market while your Mac customers are more engaged in the MCAD market. Am I misgauging this?
BM: No, you are spot on. And that really is a function and history of the code base.
Two Code Bases, One Brand
BM: The Windows products have been in development since 1990, when we made our first jump from DOS to Windows. And, again, we knew that to address both sides of the market we could’t be all things to both people. But we needed to offer a decent amount of functionality to address both markets. We have that in a code base that has been developed over 25 years.
AFR: And the Mac code base…?
BM: The Mac code base started from being a high-end mechanical CAD product. And while we have added some AEC functionality into the software, it contains a lot less than the Windows product line. So, in terms of positioning, the Mac product is more MCAD oriented.
I think if that product was on the PC, I don’t think it would do as well. We wouldn’t be able to compete with the maturity of options in the MCAD space on Windows. Likewise, the PC product’s functionality possibly wouldn’t be as successful in the Mac market.
AFR: Yes, exactly. The Mac market has very mature, advanced AEC players. But in the MCAD space there has been a lack of offerings at both the low and high levels.
BM: That’s right.
The Cloud, OnShape and the Mac’s TurboCAD Destiny
AFR: So, that leads me to ask the question, while I understand the history and the background, does it make sense to be more responsive, less to your company history, but more to the real and present opportunities and make the Mac TurboCAD product a pure mid-level MCAD play?
BM: Yeah, I think it does.
AFR: And yet…
BM: Well, it goes to the first point I brought up in terms of…where do we see development really going..? Because, if the answer is to create Web-enabled CAD products, then you go with the most robust code base, which in this case is the Windows product. And so you adapt that to run in the cloud. So it will run on a Mac, it will run on an iPad, it will run on an Android device and of course a PC.
AFR: If you chose that direction that would put your much stronger AEC code base in the cloud and available to Apple customers.
BM: Possibly. Now the real issue then becomes not the functionality but the user-interface. How do you come up with a front-end so that new product is going to appeal to, say, the Mac user? Because they are not going to like a Windows user interface. So we will have to make concessions in all cases if we choose to go down the Web-based approach.
AFR: Well, without asking you to reveal anything about directions, is there a general direction within the company to target the cloud with the TurboCAD brand?
BM: Well…I think we have been somewhat dismissive of it until this past year. Now that you see other companies—I’m thinking of OnShape and what they are doing. They are kind of showing the world—hey, look! We can now run some of the more sophisticated CAD processes in the cloud. Accordingly, we are giving a lot more serious thought to CAD in the Cloud. And so this is really one of the most important product development strategies we need to work out in 2015.
App Stores—Pledging Allegiance or Rolling Your Own
BM: So, for example, we could put out TurboCAD for the Apple iOS platform. In that case, we would leverage the mobile iOS code base we have. We would build on that. Instead of just a markup product we’d add functionality and make it at least a 2D product.
AFR: You do have a very extensive history on iOS now. Would you do that?
BM: It depends. We need to think about all of this. Being cross or open-platform on the Web, opens up more revenue opportunities to you. On the other hand, we know from our own experience, selling on iTunes or Mac App store, that pledging alliance to the iOS or Mac platform, is going to get you more sales than trying to sell that same application yourself, as a Mac or iOS compatible product.
AFR: I was reading that DraftSight has its own in-app store. Do you think that would be a good strategy for your company with TurboCAD products?
BM: We have sort of had something like that for a dozen years or so. Basically, when customers buy the TurboCAD Pro, they can get the Platinum version tools by just contacting us and without having to even install anything to unlock those features via a licensing code. So we have been doing that and it has been very successful for us. So could we do that at a more granular level? Yes, we could.
Looking Forward for TurboCAD
AFR: What is your company is excited about, perhaps some things you can share with me?
BM: We are trying to get our arms around point cloud input and being able to extract and manipulate cloud data sets. You can expect to see additional functionality in this area to both the PC and Mac products. We try to get excited about 3D printing to a certain extent, both on the PC and Mac side, to create a very simple and intuitive more consumer oriented applications that are inexpensive. We want to be a precision design CAD product. On the TurboCAD side, we will soon be releasing a couple of add-ons that will optimize the 3D models for 3D printing.
AFR: Right, so kind of taking the product towards the product designers.
BM: Yes. Taking the product in a direction where users might be given point-cloud data, having more capacity in the area of 3D printing and collaboration. These are areas we are looking at.
AFR: Collaboration seems to be a very strong selling point but there’s different ways of going about it. You can partner and get into a collaborate work stream with other tools or you can take on the whole enchilada like OnShape is trying to do. I guess it depends where you are in the workflow, in terms of what your users are doing. If you’re going to take the product in product design direction, maybe it’s more important for the workflow to connect with some of the more popular renders that out there, like KeyShot.
BM: Yes, rendering is a difficult one. That’s an interesting area for us to be in, in terms of what sort of rendering are we doing. And we made a big change on the rendering side in 2015 the first time in 15 years. We are not bundling the Lightworks Rendering engine; rather, it is now an optional plug-in. We made the decision to do this, as for the past few releases we’d been including two rendering engines in TurboCAD Windows – LightWorks and the Redway Redsdk engine. So we made a decision to go with Redway and offer Lightworks only as an option. We are also continuing to look at other higher end rendering solutions.
AFR: It seems to me the market is moving in a couple of directions regards to rendering. For the folks who have rendering integrated into their tool and they promote that as part of the time savings feature, like SolidThinking with a quick turn around but at a level of rendering quality that the person needs. The other option is, that there are these elite renders out there that are very popular and we have to make sure that our model data can get into those pipelines.
BM: Yes, we are looking at that as well. We are thinking about trying to offer an elite solution ourselves or make sure what’s coming out of TurboCAD can be used by these more elite renders.
AFR: This has been a very interesting discussion with some interesting history too. Thanks for talking to Architosh.
BM: It was a pleasure.