17 September 2010
Apple Autocad software looks fruitful
After years of rumors and beta testing it is now official Autodesk’s flagship CAD software AutoCAD is returning to the apple platform after an absence of 13 years.
Apple computer usage amongst architects has always stayed at a much higher level than amongst business users as a whole. In recent years however the arguments for its popularity have become increasingly convoluted.
The apple user interface is pleasingly designed and its "lets keep the bonnet firmly closed and get on with the driving" is ideal for a pragmatic but non-geeky mindset. In addition being perhaps one of the biggest manufacturers of personal Computers whilst also having one of the smallest product ranges has led to apple being able to invest far more into its product design than any other company. The result is apple manage to make computers that are as covetable as alessi kitchen utensils. In addition apple users do tend to be a little Smug about the comparative absence of viruses and malware compared with the world of windows!
Set against this glowing if occasionally fawning picture of Apple computers the reality is that its position as the computer of choice for creative's has been undermined over the years by the inexorable growth of software choice on the windows platform against the far more restricted palate available on apple. Whilst most of the common software that architects employ in day-to-day usage is available on the apple platform in the realm of CAD software architects have had to make the best of the limited choices available to them.
The main stay of CAD in most apple orientated architects practices is currently Vectorworks. It is versatile and reasonably priced drafting software, which often seems to outperform other Cad packages in producing attractive legible drawings both for presentation and production information. However in practice users often encounter frustrations with interchange of drawings with consultants, clunky workgroup referencing (Vectorworks version of AutoCAD’s xrefs). It doesn't always cut it as a heavyweight CAD programme
Archicad is one highly able alternative but in Common with various other Apple CAD compatible CAD packages it hasn’t taken a significant share of the apple CADD market, certainly not within the architectural practices that we deal with. In the case of ArchiCAD this may be partially due to it being several times more expensive than Vectorworks
Our recent experience has been that Apple based architectural practices have over the last couple of years been slowly embracing the dual apple and windows functionality of the recent Intel based Mac pros and Mac books to avail themselves of Industry standard windows based software such as AutoCAD, Microstation and Rhino.
It is a demonstration of the strength of Autodesk’s renewed commitment to the Apple platform that despite the dual boot or virtualized windows options for running its existing windows software that they have decided that the development cost of an OSX native version of its flagship product is worth investing in.
Due to launch in October it will be interesting to see how it changes the current apple Cad market. As a newly written product it may have its share of initial bugs which may take the odd patch or two to iron out however to my mind its potential to be a game changer for the use of apples in architects offices is significant.
Whilst Autodesk no doubt feel that the release on the OSX platform of the premium priced full version of the product is an appropriate way to claw back the extensive development costs They could more quickly achieve a significant share of the apple cad market if they competed not just at the price point of Archicad but also nearer the price point of Vectorworks. The release of an AutoCAD Light version for OSX could achieve this. If they don’t ,they run the risk that apple users may continue to opt for the Light windows version in favour of the much more expensive full OSX native version of autocad.
This observation aside, autocads move to reenter the apple market deserves to be a success and hopefully it is a harbinger of more to come. An increased choice of CAD software for apple users and a choice of platform for AutoCAD users has got to be a good thing all round.
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