Growing Up The Clones

In a comment to my earlier post, a reader lamented on the lack of large drawing support and shading in Bricscad and other AutoCAD clones. He wrote:

“What I would really like to see in [Bricscad] V10 is better performance with large drawings or dwgs with large 3D models. Also, I’ve always found the shading lacking in all the Intellicad versions. Flat shading doesn’t cut it anymore. Come on it’s almost 2010 people! I think these two factors would help their adoption by Autocad users.”

In my opinion, the key to getting the clones to be closer to AutoCAD in features, or make them better, is for their developers to make intelligent “make or buy” decisions. For example, in the case of shading they can use a third party rendering engine like the Redsdk from Redway3D (IMSI/Design just did). But if they do they then need to shell out royalties which then will make them increase the price of their product in order to make the same kind of profit. If they don’t then they need to cook up the technologies themselves. And we know that these companies are not rendering specialists.

Over the years, I have heard users of AutoCAD clones complain about just about every feature of their software, always comparing it with the corresponding feature of AutoCAD. However, I don’t believe I ever heared anyone complain about 3D boolean operations. The reason is that feature uses the ACIS modeling kernel which is licensed from Spatial. You usually find 3D modeling capability in the Professional versions of the clones and the increased price is largely due to the royalties that need to paid to Spatial. If the clones did not used ACIS or any other robust (and hence expensive) third party modeling kernel, they would need to write one on their own and we know that none of them are experts at modeling kernels.

In fact, I think it would not be a terrible idea to give the Professional versions of the clones a major facelift. If I were a developer of an AutoCAD clone, I would leave the Standard version as it is but go around shopping for the best technologies, wire them in the Professional version and price it at $2000, if possible. Even then it would be about half the price of AutoCAD but probably come pretty close to it. Secondly, I would take a couple of my brightest programmers and direct them never ever to look at AutoCAD again. Their sole job would be to come up with new stuff while making customer requests a major source for new ideas. Playing catchup is definitely not the best way to gain market share.

In a press release announcing Bricscad V10, CEO Erik de Keyser said:

“Bricscad V10 shows that Bricsys is not just a slavishly follower for DWG CAD but has the intention for innovation while continuing our strong support for the DWG legacy investments of the CAD community.”

Erik was talking about eBridge, the connection between Bricscad and Vondle, their project management system. According to the press release  eBridge allows teams of Bricscad users to collaborate more closely by giving them features like “file versioning, file history, sharing files with others, control on access rights, the fastest online viewer with annotations history, workflow processing and much more“. Bricscad and Vondle were completely different products and now they have been connected thereby adding value to both.

When I was at the Bricsys office in Gent, Belgium, this April, I asked Erik whether he had plans to offer his customers something more than what AutoCAD offerred. “You bet“, came the reply.

As an aside, I also noticed that Bricsys has stopped using the word “AutoCAD” in their marketing. They use “DWG CAD” instead.