MobileCAD is fairly unimportant to deep-pocket CAD vendors
An email buddy writes,
CADO [from England's Orange Juice Studios] ... had a somewhat tragic Kickstarter campaign, and I'm not sure if any major CAD firm has taken any interest supporting the project, or licensing the tech for their own app.
- A. B.
Orange Juice Studios came up with (patent-pending) technology for solving the fat finger problem in using CAD on tablets. They are still alive, judging from the flurry of postings on their blog as recently as mid-June. True, their Kickstarter campaign failed; we only hear about the outrageous successes, never the many fails.
Now they are trying the most outrageous stunt of all: creating their own DWG read-write engine. On the surface, it looks simple:
1. Define a point by 3D coordinates, slap on its properties
2. Define a line by two 3D coordinates, slap on its properties
3. Define a circle by the 3D coordinates of its center point and the radius, slap on properties
4. Keep going
Then they will run into the problem of displaying ACIS-based 3D solids (encrypted in DWG) and creating solids (requires a license from Spatial). And then it gets worse. Reading the Open Design Alliance's documentation on DWG, they will come across sections labeled with the programming equivalent of "There be dragons here." Nevertheless, the OJ guys blog their reasoning at http://www.news.orangejuicestudios.com/to-dwg-or-not-to-dwg.
So why wouldn't some deep-pocketed CAD vendor snap up OJ Studios? Perhaps for these reasons:
- The CAD vendor is building his own system, like an Autodesk or Graebert
- The CAD vendor has no interest in tabletCAD, like a Siemens PLM or PTC
- It's too difficult to integrate someone else's code into existing efforts
- There just isn't the money in the tabletCAD market to bother with such an investment
The last reason is the most significant one, I believe. I think we are at Peak Tablet, to borrow the current trope. Sales are slowing as the market saturates; people who may be been beguiled by the idea of owning a shiny tablet (like one of my neighbours) are learning their limitations; heck, I use mine mainly for watching movies. That ain't exactly CAD.
Let's look at where CAD is at in the tablet market:
- Prices are free or not much higher, with the exception of some IMSI/Design pricing, but even there the company has been experimenting with many, many pricing strategies. A price as low as $40 is too cheap to cover the development, marketing, and support costs. It's helpful to read OJ Studio's musing about pricing at http://www.news.orangejuicestudios.com/cad-cookies-cado-freemium.
- Users of free software are whiney users, as Autodesk's ceo has exasperatedly stated. That translates as higher support costs.
- Even a company that could benefit from tabletCAD like Bricsys has repeatedly delayed releasing a mobile product; hey, Graebert's won't ship for another half-year.
- Windows 8.x (both desktop and Metro) running on tablets is an immature mess
- Android is stalling as Google obcesses over the user experience, rather than advancing the technology
- Apple locks away the most important parts of iOS and its iPad hardware from third-party developers
I think that Orange Juice Studio would be a good acqui-hire: not just for their tech, but for the thinking Vimal and Attzaz put into the problem of solving the tabletCAD predicament. Read their blog at http://www.news.orangejuicestudios.com.
My email correspondent concludes on the dismal state of this niche:
It's a platform that asks for complete reinvention -- think Windows TabletPCs vs the iPad. I don't think it's possible to have the enormous feature set of existing CAD products on the tablet (and be attractive to users) from the get-go. [We need to] rethink CAD from scratch: not an attractive idea for an existing CAD vendor.
Maybe I should make a potato salad instead? That project had a lot more success on Kickstarter than CAD for tablets.
Maybe in a year's time we'll be saying, "Well, that was a good kick at the cat."