Recently Germany’s Graebert, a globally leading CAD software company, showed select press progress on its mobile and cloud-based CAD product lines, following an update on its Android-based mobile version, ARES Touch. Part of this effort was to demonstrate rapid progress on its Apple iOS based version of ARES Touch, which the company initiated last year after large Japanese CAD customers communicated they had made their mobile platform preferences choice and it was with Apple. In Japan, where the mega-large companies go, often so goes the rest of Japan. Thus the mandate to accelerate the iOS version of ARES Touch.
Yet, the Graebert update was more than just showing the company is firing on all cylinders around iOS, they also wanted to communicate their strategic vision around cloud and their passionate position around licensing and use-access flexibility, a position that may come to truly benefit the company as rival Autodesk approaches its full come-to-Jesus moment this year with the termination of perpetual licenses in favor of subscription only licensing.
How Much Flexibility Do Users Really Want?
Berlin-based Graebert is trying to read the tea-leaves of the CAD industry correctly at a time of great change. But they aren’t doing this blindly; listening to customers and their OEM partner clients, which include industry giants Dassault Systemes, Cambridge, Mass’s Onshape, and Canada’s Corel Corporation, in addition to market reports inform their process.
An example of their responsiveness comes in the form of their recent Android-based ARES Touch product. OEM partners in Asia have asked for a free version of ARES Touch. But Graebert knows that having a free version competing alongside a pay-version in the App Stores eventually means your free version must advance itself in order to compete with other free rivals. “This just leads to cannibalization of your full paid version,” says Cedric Desbordes, sales and marketing director of Graebert.
So the latest version of ARES Touch—now for Android but later this year for Apple iOS—works this way through the Google Play Store: you download a full version that works for free for 30 days. If you become an ARES Commander licensee, that is, buy the desktop CAD version in a few different ways, ARES Touch for mobile continues to work in full version mode for the life of your ARES Commander subscription. “If you don’t, the product then works for free but with limited features. This gives any user the chance to feel the full experience before making its choice between a free or (full-featured) commercial version.” says Desbordes.
This is just one way the company says they are being responsive and flexible. And it fits what they refer to as their “cross-device CAD experience” wherein one license to ARES Commander—their desktop app—opens flexible utilization of all the available ARES CAD software.
Development Path—Android to iOS to CAD in the Cloud
It should be noted that Graebert is a standout within the entire CAD industry for being the first to release a native DWG 2/3D CAD product for all three major computer platforms: Windows, Mac and Linux. Within this philosophy of not taking OS sides comes multiple unforeseen advantages. Yes, other rivals and industry pundits have argued, “do you really need that Linux version?” And years before that, “will the Mac version ever recoup its development costs?”
But these questions have fell mute in recent years. Cost-conscience global large enterprises have utilized the Linux versions, while Apple’s Mac user-base is now just about at 100 million. Building the capacity to develop for all these platforms has benefitted Graebert at both the OEM and customer level and internally; having this experience has meant it can target various mobile platforms and the cloud with solid multi-platform experience behind it. And having a single common API that targets all these platforms means it can provide its OEM partners the easiest path to migrate solutions to mobile and cloud or OS’s they don’t currently support.
In its recent update to ARES Touch for Android, the company set a full-set of dimensioning and sharing tools for its “free” version while its “full mode” version includes Picture Note, Quick Modify and a host of other premium features enabling the user to create or modify DWG drawings on the go. (see, Architosh, “ARES Touch for Android Now Immediately Available for Download,” 21 June 2016).
Picture Note has become a stand-out feature for Graebert. “We see a lot of interest and use in Picture Note,” remarks Desbordes, “this feature was initially developed after the specifications of a large tire manufacturer in Europe; they were looking for an annotation tool that could be used by workers in the plant, without previous CAD experience. In the US or Japan, we also heard from our customers that PDF is popular for collaboration but is significantly missing features such as dimensioning or annotation tools, which explains the enthusiasm for PictureNote and VoiceNote,” adds Desbordes. Both features are aimed at collaboration, an area in the CAD industry that is seeing strong trending demand.
The Apple iOS version of ARES Touch is moving ahead on an aggressive schedule. “It is very important to us that we catchup on the iOS version,” says Dr. Robert Graebert, “and I would say the mobile team is spending three quarters of their time currently on the iOS version.” “We want to get this out in beta form to several of our large Japanese customers,” adds Graebert, “as they have been early adopters of mobile CAD technologies. We will learn a lot about which features are important to our users and the synergies we can build with desktop and cloud.” Graebert noted that the company was showing off an early version of ARES Touch for iOS on the iPad Pro last November and users were loving it. “We love these devices and think they are a very attractive option for us,” noted Graebert.
ARES Kudo Advances
In our talk Dr. Robert Graebert largely saved the best for last—ARES Kudo. When released Kudo will be, arguably, the cloud’s most advanced CAD application. More specifically, native DWG CAD application.
The latest progress images look extremely promising. ARES Kudo’s user interface has become more streamlined and modern looking, all rendered in a “dark theme” which is reminiscent of many professional applications in industries in addition to CAD like film and animation. Of interesting note, Autodesk’s Mac AutoCAD application also features a default “dark theme” which turned out to be influential to its Windows version.
ARES Kudo works through any web browser (Google Chrome ideally) and you can now login with your Google account ID. Once logged in for the first time you can “link” common cloud storage providers like Box, Dropbox or Google Drive to your account to gain and storage access for your files. Dr. Graebert notes that Kudo will feature a robust access rights control system but the particular details of that system will not be released until its fall annual meeting in Berlin.
“We have some pretty cool features in ARES Kudo we want to hold off on announcing until October,” says Dr. Graebert. “but what I can say now is that collaboration capacities are important for us, as is Japanese market support.” Graebert says the availability for Kudo will also become clearer at the fall Graebert Annual Meeting. “I can tell you now that we have been learning a lot from working with OnShape over the past year.” adds Dr. Graebert.”There is power in being able to work wherever you are and just type in your account and there you go!”
Do Graebert’s Flexibilities Matter?
Getting back to the original question posed earlier, the Berlin-based CAD company is betting big that when it comes to devices, OS’s and access options, users ultimately want all of it. “It is very important to us that an ARES Commander licensee gains a simple, single license that unlocks access to all mobile devices and cloud in addition to the desktop,” says Dr. Robert Graebert.
But flexibility to multiple OS and devices is just one part of the flexibility equation. The big question many CAD users are facing in the present is the push by some companies towards “subscription-only” licensing models and the elimination of “perpetual licensing” altogether. Autodesk’s push towards subscription-only licensing in particular has caught the attention of rivals. Bentley last week announced its aggressive “Autodesk License Upgrade Program” aimed at providing a jump-off refuge for those committed to what the company is offering as “evergreen” perpetual licenses.
While no software company wants their customers to continue to use their perpetual licensed software forever, subscription-based licenses are not workable for everyone as frequency of updates and new features can be disruptive to projects in mid-stream. On the flip-side, subscription-based licenses offer customers new types of benefits such as lower first access pricing—annual plans often start at fractions of a perpetual license—and the ability to access and use software for shorter bursts of activities, to name a few.
Graebert has already been offering both annual subscription and perpetual licenses. Its approach looks to be aiming at offering more flexibility than its rivals, which include Autodesk, Bentley and other DWG native CAD competitors like Bricsys. Only time will tell where the market wants to be with licensing models, but for now Graebert has every angle covered.