I am having an interesting email discussion with a couple of people about AutoCAD WS, the mobile version of AutoCAD for iPad and iPhone that Autodesk announced today. The thing is in order to use AutoCAD WS, you need to sign up for a Butterfly account. For those who are not aware, Project Butterfly is an Autodesk labs project which allows users to edit and collaborate on AutoCAD drawings using a web browser.
Since Butterfly works in a browser many confuse this with CAD on the Cloud. Actually Project Butterfly is mere storage in the Cloud and CAD on the device. In fact when you load a DWG file on your computer into Butterfly it gets uploaded to your Butterfly account on the Autodesk server where it is converted into some other optimized format. This file is then downloaded back to your computer where a Flash application running inside your browser displays it and lets you edit the objects in it. When you go to save the drawing it is uploaded back to the server where it stays.
The technology for Project Butterfly came from an acquisition that Autodesk made of an Israeli company called PlanPlatform, also known as VisualTau. According to this article Autodesk supposedly paid $25 million for it. If that is indeed the case then I hope Autodesk got much more than just an AutoCAD clone running in Flash, that too an incomplete one.
I am guessing since AutoCAD WS needs you to sign into your Butterfly account, it will work in the same way as Project Butterfly for the desktop. The drawings will be stored on the Autodesk server and the CAD will happen locally on the iPhone/iPad. We were discussing the nature of this application. Flash appears to be out of the question because Apple does not support Flash on the iPhone and iPad. The only way to run Flash on the iPhone and iPad is to jailbreak it from Apple’s clutches. So my guess is that AutoCAD WS is a native iOS application that Autodesk developed alongside AutoCAD for Mac.
If you have some insights that you wish to share, do leave a comment. Also if you know what the “WS” in AutoCAD WS stands for please enlighten me. My guess is “Windows Sucks”. Another one I just read on Twitter is “We’re Second“.