I will be visiting Bricsys in Belgium after attending the Open Design Alliance World Conference in Holland. I look forward to meeting the programmers who have been working overtime to make Bricscad one of the best AutoCAD clones out there. Apart from congratulating them I am also going to wish them the best of luck because Autodesk has gone ahead and added some fancy stuff in AutoCAD 2010, which they will need to ape if they want to keep their Bricscad-AutoCAD feature comparison chart looking good.
On the other hand, IMSI is playing it safe with DoubleCAD. Unlike Bricsys and other ITC members who call their software an “alternative” to AutoCAD, IMSI is calling DoubleCAD a “work-alike”. In their words, “Both DoubleCAD XT and XT Pro work like AutoCAD LT — that is, you’ll see a familiar menu bar, menu items, drawing tools, modify tools, command line, even a familiar intelligent cursor“. I believe IMSI is cleverly handing itself a longer rope by stating that DoubleCAD is not an AutoCAD clone, thereby not obliging itself to offer everything that AutoCAD 2010 does.
But as far as keeping up with AutoCAD 2010, IMSI appears to have an edge as they have already added constraints to DoubleCAD, a key enhancement in AutoCAD 2010. This also shows that IMSI has more freedom and flexibility in adding new features to its products. They already had a constraint plug-in for AutoCAD called IDX Variable Constraint System which I guess found its way into DoubleCAD. This was made possible because they decided use their own proprietary file format for DoubleCAD called 2CD and not DWG like like other AutoCAD clones. They did not have to wait for the ODA to reverse engineer the 2010 DWG format in order to add constraints to DoubleCAD. Similarly, in order to add other AutoCAD 2010 enhancements (like the subdivision mesh), IMSI will not need to wait for the ODA to come up with a solution. And in the unlikely event that the ODA is not able to deliver, they can go ahead and develop it themselves.
So looking at this from various angles, I see three kinds of companies and their approaches:
(1) Members of the ITC who rely completely on the ITC for their products, which in turn relies on the ODA to do the hard work of cloning the underlying AutoCAD technologies. Here they need both the ODA and the ITC to deliver to get a product that they can sell and this can be quite frustrating.
(2) Companies like Bricsys who rely only on the ODA for the underlying technologies and which build their products themselves.
(3) Companies like IMSI who rely on the ODA for core technologies but are free to go ahead and develop their own technologies if required. They build their products themselves and can add new features faster since they are not restricted by the DWG file format and the ability of the ODA to crack it.
Frankly, I do not see much difference between the words “clone”, “alternative”, “work-alike” or whatever fancy terms these companies use in their marketing. All they are trying to do is get AutoCAD users to switch to their product, that all.
IMSI and Bricsys are attacking Autodesk on two fronts. IMSI is after the more meaty AutoCAD LT customer base by offering DoubleCAD XT Pro (which they claim is better than AutoCAD LT) for half the price. See their comparison chart. AutoCAD LT cannot be extended by means of plug-ins and neither can DoubleCAD, although that may change in the future. On the other hand, Bricsys is after customers of the full blown AutoCAD by trying to convince third party developers like myself to port our existing AutoCAD plug-ins to Bricscad. They also offer a Classic version of Bricscad which counters AutoCAD LT. But unlike AutoCAD LT, Bricscad Classic can be extended by plug-ins, which makes Bricsys products quite interesting to users of AutoCAD or LT who are contemplating making the switch.
Now since we are in the recession mood lets look at something very important – pricing. AutoCAD LT is priced at $1200. DoubleCAD XT Pro is almost half at $700. Bricscad Classic is almost half of DoubleCAD and is one third of AutoCAD LT at $400. And considering that you can extend Bricscad Classic with plug-ins it certainly looks like a steal. As far as the full blown AutoCAD is concerned, you do the math. And while you are at it, you may want to factor in subscription as well.