DraftSight for Mac (a new CAD .dwg editor) is now available for download! It is a beta release, so there is still room for improvement (not that I know what needs improving on the Mac version). If you are a Mac user who’s interested in DraftSight, please join the DraftSight.com community to get ideas or provide your suggestions.
Last week, Dassault Systemes announced some big news that quiets the thunder of Autodesk’s big news from the same week. Autodesk announced they will release a Mac version of AutoCAD this Fall. I’m guessing that this new version of AutoCAD will likely be in the same price range as their current AutoCAD offering (thousands of dollars). Draftsight, a free .dwg 2D editor, has been available since June 2010. But that’s old news. So, what’s Dassault Systemes’ big news now?
A public beta release of Draftsight for Mac is available on September 15, 2010, for free! Not only that, but Draftsight for Linux is due for release in October 2010, for free! That is a one-two punch directed at the heart of AutoCAD’s core customer base. Autodesk’s choice to drop Mac support many years ago now comes back to haunt them. Just as Autodesk makes their big announcement, the wait to re-adopt their application to the Mac appears to be too little, too late, and too costly.
In all fairness
To be fair, AutoCAD is a very powerful .dwg editor with several powerful add-ons. Draftsight has a ways to go before approaching that level of maturity. However, I don’t think it will ever need to reach that same level.
When a CAD customer moves from 2D to 3D, the extra functionality of AutoCAD isn’t needed in most cases. Also, new companies that need 2D capabilities will likely not need AutoCAD’s added functionality either. In many cases, companies and individuals will opt for a free application that covers their needs rather than spend thousands of dollars to get the little extras they aren’t likely to use.
Mac user interface
Mac users have certain user interface expectations for Mac applications. Dassault Systemes appears to understand this. The user interface of Draftsight for Mac should be familiar to Mac users. For example, tools are organized onto a palette instead of Windows-like toolbars. The Draftsight Mac toolbar is floating in the same fashion as most other Mac applications.
Linux user interface
The Linux user interface is more Windows-like with various toolbars and the pulldown menus. Variations of the user interface will support variations in Linux.
A new game has taken SolidWorks World 2010 by storm. Count how many times the word “cloud” (as in cloud computing) is spoken. At one point, it might seem that entire speeches consist entirely of the word “cloud cloud cloud cloud cloud cloud cloud cloud cloud.” There’s a message somewhere. Oh, that’s right. Cloud computing is the future of SolidWorks and the rest of the Dassault Systemes applications (maybe even for high security customers).
Cloud computing has many advantages over traditional installed software, according to Jeff Ray, CEO of SolidWorks. No matter how good SolidWorks is, it is still limited by the computer upon which it is installed. A significant investment is required to purchase computers that are powerful enough to get the most out of 3D CAD software. Also, installed software tends to be limited by computer operating systems. SolidWorks, in its current form, will not likely to be ported over to run natively on a MAC OS. Instead, SolidWorks will bypass these limitations with cloud computing. With cloud computing, “SolidWorks” (in whatever form it takes) may run on any platform. In fact, the user’s computer power will play very little roll. CAD files (even hugh assemblies) can be accessed instantly and edited on practically any platform, such as Microsoft, MAC OS, Google OS, Firefox, and iPhone. This is all accomplished without installing any software. They even discussed SolidWorks running seamlessly with ENOVIA V6, maybe even sometime this year.
According to Ray, the new cloud technologies will be rolled out as they are ready. The customer will choose when (if ever) to implement. These improvements represent a “completely new design environment”. Ray also stated that these new techologies where developed in secret and “run like a start up”. Technically, all this cloud talk represents nothing more than vaporware right now. However, if Dassault Systemes delivers, they may have a massive game changer on their hands.
There is some press recently on Apple’s application for a patent covering a technology that moves a 3D model based on head movement or hand gesturing. A demonstrative video is included which shows an individual moving their head to peer around a model from different angles. This is pretty cool, expect for one minor detail. Are they really marketing this to CAD users? This is about as silly as voice command. Can you imagine this combined with voice command, with engineers weaving and bobbing about as they bark off orders “line!”, “extrude!”, “measure!”, “change my bed pan!”? I would start feeling like I’m playing one of those boxing games on PS3 or Wii.
This is a great tool when applied to the right application. Gaming comes to mind (as noted above). Remote control of deep-sea robots may be another application. Sales gimmick, er, I mean sales display in a department store may yet be another. But CAD? Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be to have to move your head from right to left just to rotate a model during a design review, or with your CEO looking over your erratic shoulder?
You know where this would be useful in CAD? When we finally have the type of display that Ironman has (from the recent Ironman movie). By the time we have that sort of thing, I fear the patent on this technology would have expired.
I asked Houston Neal of Software Advice about how CAD users would use this application. I ask this because Apple is developing this application and we all know how Apple is about stuff they develop (it only runs on Macs).
Unfortunately CAD users would likely have to run Bootcamp, Parallels or some other application to run Windows on the Mac, thereby allowing them to run their CAD app.
iTunes did eventually run on PCs, but Apple may have lost early market share and revenue by limiting their iPods and iTunes to Mac in the initial release.
If Apple is serious about supporting the CAD industry on its platform, this new head-bobbing application is welcome, but not nearly enough. Further, use of this technology shouldn’t be limited to just Mac usage at any time.