Some Thoughts On The DWG CAD Market

Today SYCODE released six file import and five file export add-ins for ARES, the brand new CAD engine from Graebert. ARES is built over the DWGdirect platform from the ODA. ARES add-ins are basically DRX applications. Earlier we had built our Bricscad plug-ins as DRX applications instead of using the source code from our AutoCAD plug-ins and compiling it with the BRX SDK from Bricsys. The reason for doing that was to be able to easily port to other CAD systems using the ODA platform, such as ARES.

Another good thing about the ODA code is that it is cross platform. Which means Bricsys and Graebert will be able to port their CAD engines to the Mac and Linux as well. At SYCODE, a great deal of our code was Windows specific. We have already started the process of stripping out the Windows specific stuff and making it cross platform so that we can support CAD systems as and when they move to the Mac and Linux.

Now in all of this we have Dassault Systemes bringing their free DraftSight to the mix of AutoCAD clones. DraftSight is based on ARES and will follow it on the Mac and Linux as well. However, the ARES add-ins we released today will not work with DraftSight. Why? Because the Dassault Systemes’ deal with Graebert did not include the API. The DraftSight team is going to develop its own API which third  party developers like us can use to extend DraftSight.

I am curious to see how much functionality Dassault Systemes adds to DraftSight over time. Dassault Systemes has made it quite clear that DraftSight will be free and they are only interested in earning by charging for support, access to API and other value adds. The idea is also to indirectly earn from people who stop paying Autodesk money for AutoCAD and instead spend it on moving to SolidWorks. The plan is to gain entry into companies through the free DraftSight route and then up sell them to their 3D CAD solutions later on.

Dassault Systemes is basically trying to do something which many in the DWG market have been trying to do for quite a while now. And that is to build credibility and acceptability to the concept of AutoCAD clones. With a well respected brand name like Dassault Systemes behind DraftSight, it will be interesting to see whether they will be successful in doing that. If they are then it can lead to a bit of an ironic situation. I say ironic because a stronger presence of DraftSight in the DWG CAD market will result in a weaker presence of the other AutoCAD clones, all of whom are crucial in keeping the wheels of the ODA turning. Remember, it is the ODA that does most of the hard work that forms the core of all these AutoCAD clones.

If the need arises, I guess a company as large as Dassault Systemes may be able to buy Graebert tomorrow morning. But it cannot simply go ahead and buy the ODA since it is an organization of many companies. The ODA board is made up of members that develop AutoCAD clones and none of them will be willing to commit financial suicide by agreeing to sell the IP to Dassault Systemes. So how all this plays out is going to be quite interesting.

Of course, if Dassault Systems is not able to make a mark with DraftSight, then it will be business as usual, like how it is now. But in the coming years, if DraftSight becomes a major pain for the more powerful ODA members, then I believe things could get quite complicated.