Monday, February 12, 2007

Not Quite All, But More Tomorrow

So, here we are in San Francisco for the first of day of Autodesk's World Press Day. (Shouldn't that be "World Press Days," since it's actually two days?)

Autodesk issued several press releases today, talking about how the company announced new releases of its software., they didn't. Today was focused primarily on presentations from Autodesk CEO Carl Bass and the vice presidents of Autodesk's various vertical market divisions. The announcements will mostly come tomorrow (Tuesday), when the event turns toward individual vertical market breakout sessions.

There was a lot said, and a lot of excellent presentations, both by Autodesk personnel and by three exemplary customers: Palumbo Motorcar Company, designers and manufacturers of a new hybrid sports car; Infinity Ward Inc., makers of the popular Call of Duty video games; and Patrick MacLeary, CEO of HOK, one of world's the leading architectural firms.

The biggest news today was actually an admission of an announcement that was quietly made several days ago. Autodesk's Design Review software, which I have been speaking about at Autodesk University and AUGI CAD Camp events, no longer costs $199 but rather is now a free product.

Tomorrow, Autodesk will publicly show new features in AutoCAD 2008, vertical market products such as Inventor 12 and Revit 10, and formally announce Autodesk Impression (including, one would hope, a price). But today was mostly a 30,000-foot view of Autodesk and its markets.

I've got lots to distill from today's presentations, and it will likely take me several days to sort through all of my notes and thoughts from today's presentations. But during the question and answer period at the end of the day, Brad Holtz (my former employer at EAReport and CADCAMNet) posed a question to Carl Bass regarding what Brad perceived as the difference between Autodesk's apparent rejection of PLM on the mechanical solutions side of the house versus its embracing of building information modeling (BLM) on the architect, engineering and construction side. Brad apparently felt that the two were somewhat synonymous. But based on Carl's response (which is quoted below and in my opinion is the quote of the day), the two are very different:

"Design needs to be informed by more things in order to make better decisions. The sooner in the process you understand that thing, the better off you are," said Mr. Bass. "What's my anti-PLM rap? There are only three customers in the world today that ever had a PLM problem. One of them is Dassault, one is PTC, and one is UGS; all competitors. There is no company that I know that wakes up and says, 'I have a PLM problem.' PLM is an artifact, it's a marketing slogan to satisfy a financial community." According to Bass, Autodesk talks about democratizing. "Think about between that and what's involved in some of these implementations that take years; they take tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. I always laugh at a PLM implementation that costs $20 million and now they can do engineering change orders online. So not only don't I see companies that need PLM, that don't have PLM problems, the number of successful implementations that I've seen in the world I can count on a single hand...Nobody wakes up and says, 'This is a great system. This is what makes us more competitive. This what makes it fun to go to work. This is what gives us design innovation. This is what gives us competitive advantage.' The moment I starting seeing companies like that, I'm going to rethink it. Until then, I say I think there are much more pragmatic approaches—much more digestible approaches—that solve the problem of how do you inform design and engineering early in the process."

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