The SketchUp Big Bang

At SYCODE we have decided to start 2009 with a bang – a very big bang. Today we released 32 products. Yes, you read that right – thirty two products on a single day. I wonder if this is some kind of a record.

These 32 products are SketchUp data exchange plug-ins. They comprise of 13 file import and export plug-ins for Google SketchUp (the free version as well as the Professional version) and 19 SKP file import and export plug-ins for a variety of CAD systems – Adobe Acrobat, Alibre Design, AutoCAD, IntelliCAD, Inventor, IRONCAD, INOVATE, Solid Edge, SolidWorks and SpaceClaim.

Although the free version of Google SketchUp has a sizable user base, only a fraction of CAD vendors have taken the trouble of adding SKP read/write support to their software. These 32 plug-ins will allow SketchUp users and users of other CAD systems to easily share their 3D data in ways they never could before.

You can read the full press release here.

This brings the total number of products offered by SYCODE to a staggering 140. Maintaining and supporting 140 products is slowly eating into our sanity. For example, take a single AutoCAD plug-in product. At SYCODE we support AutoCAD 2000 through to 2009 and are busy figuring out 2010. We need to build a plug-in DLL for each version of AutoCAD. That’s 10 DLLs per AutoCAD plug-in product. We also need to build separate plug-in DLLs for the 64 bit versions of AutoCAD 2008, 2009 and 2010. So for a single AutoCAD plug-in product that supports AutoCAD 2000 through to 2010 (32 bit and 64 bit), we are looking at 13 plug-in DLLs. And we have 22 AutoCAD plug-ins. So that makes it 286 plug-in DLLs just for AutoCAD. If I start a rebuild of just the AutoCAD plug-in DLLs on my computer, I have to find something else to do in office for at least an hour and a half.

I have often been asked why our plug-ins cost so much. 195 Euros for a plug-in may not be that much when you factor in the cost and developing, testing, maintaining and supporting all those plug-in DLLs. Moreover, each plug-in product comes with detailed help and tutorials which need to be updated regularly. And we provide free lifetime support.

So why do we support versions of software which are a decade old? Well, quite simply because there still exist users of decade old software. Some of you may find this hard to believe but only a fraction of our customers run our plug-ins with the latest version of their CAD system. Actually, we get quite a good sense of when a new version of a CAD software is actually being adopted.

Although it is not common, we still have AutoCAD customers who still use our plug-ins with AutoCAD 2000. And we have been supporting them completely free of cost for all these years, and we will continue to do so till it is technically possible. Sure we would like them to upgrade so that we can charge them for upgrades and make more money off them. But we are not going to force them to upgrade by not supporting them or penalizing them in other ways. If an AutoCAD user still wants to use a plug-in that he paid us for in full a decade ago, we will support him free of cost till kingdom come, even though Autodesk extended its big fat middle finger to him years ago.

And the same goes for the other CAD vendors as well.