Despite some recent stories and perspectives questioning Apple’s commitments to its pro Mac markets, today’s global software competition in the CAD (computer-aided design) markets is producing a bounty of options for the Mac computer user. The result is the Mac CAD market looks ‘rich’ compared to even just a few years ago.
Times are a Changing—MCAD and AutoCAD Options
When we ran our Architosh Mac pro desktop survey about a year ago and published the summary results online, one refrain we didn’t mention talked about often by several participants was that of lamenting the lack of quality MCAD (mechanical design CAD) software tools native to the platform. “We desperately need parametric modeling like SolidWorks on the Mac desktop,” wrote a survey participant from the scientific and medical community. And yet others, sometimes representing companies with over 1000 seats, also mentioned Solidworks and mechanical CAD tools in general.
Yet, things are changing quickly. Completely new options have popped up while existing solutions, like IMSI-Design’s TurboCAD Pro for Mac, have gained strength and focus in the MCAD direction.
Since the time we ran that Mac Pro desktop survey last year, some of the key original folks responsible for the popular SolidWorks MCAD tool have launched—to much fanfare–their new OnShape fully web-based MCAD tool. (see image 01)
Today, those longing for SolidWorks or SolidWorks-like CAD functionality can find an exciting new offering making big waves in the market. Onshape isn’t cloud-based because CAD in the cloud has become derigueur, rather it’s cloud based for a multitude of reasons but one of them, and an important one, is that many more users are wanting to work on other platforms besides the Windows desktop environment.
Like Autodesk’s Fusion 360 which also is platform agnostic, and for precisely the same reasons, Onshape opens the door to platform independence in a way that simply didn’t exist even a few years ago.
While Mac users loving some SolidWorks are finding acceptance and open arms on OnShape and Fusion 360, those AEC and other CAD professionals who have long sought a native Mac AutoCAD not only have had that option for many years now (see, Architosh, “Autodesk Talks to Architosh about AutoCAD for Mac 2015—Features, Parity and Market Segments,” 19 Dec 2014) but have a set of rather new and fierce competitors to the native DWG CAD global leader.
Those competitors come in the form of BricsCAD and Graebert’s ARES Commander, the latter of the two achieving something recently that no other Mac CAD company in the DWG space has yet accomplished—the implementation of a sophisticated constraint solver by industry leader Spatial Corporation.
If you don’t know what a constraint solver is, chances are high you are not in league with the industrial heavyweight MCAD crowd. And that’s perfectly okay! For those who do know what it is, Graebert’s announcement is exciting stuff. While the company has yet to make the announcement official, its latest ARES Commander 2015 for Mac SP2 includes the core Spatial Constraint Design Solver technology thereby bringing the Mac version of ARES in tight parallel with its Windows version.
We believe it is the first Mac CAD product of any kind to have this technology. ARES Commander is made in Germany and is the core technology is Dassault Systemes’ DraftSight which has over 1 million users worldwide. That product too runs on the Mac though it lags the feature parity ARES Commander itself.
Not to be left behind, the venerable IMSI-Design, the makers of the popular TurboCAD brand franchise of solutions, has focused intently on making its TurboCAD Pro Mac product highly conducive to mechanical design development work, with built-in visualization rendering chops to boot. (see, Architosh, “Special Interview: IMSI/Design Talks About All Things TurboCAD,” 26 Jun 2015).
Rich and Getting Richer!
When the leading venture-funded CAD companies targeting the upper echelons of industrial markets are making it a big priority to be platform agnostic and fully web and cloud based, it means for the first time Apple’s Mac customers are looking to be on equal footing with their Windows brethren in the world of CAD—at least on the software side of things.
Yes, it’s true. There are matters of hardware that need to be—and hopefully will be—addressed by Apple in the months ahead.
Apple must still push hard to offer competitive Mac hardware useful to such professionals. This means Mac laptops that feature fast processors, fast GPUs and excellent IO for storage. It also means, importantly, great options for the desktop that provide an even gradient power spectrum across singular and multiple CPU and GPU optionality. This is something Apple can and should work on. It is well within their reach.
As Onshape co-founder and CEO John McEleney notes in his blog post story, on Andreessen and Horowitz coming onboard with $80 million funding, the global CAD-based design and manufacturing industries are worth $12 trillion annually. This is a tremendously huge market and opportunity for Apple. The software is going there. The users are going there. Apple just needs to make sure its hardware is ready for all of this change.