Where Is SketchUp Headed?

SketchUp was an instant success when it was released by startup company @Last Software in August 2000 mainly because of its extremely intuitive and easy to use interface. In fact it holds a patent for its Push/Pull technology. Although SketchUp is widely used in the architecture community, from the download statistics of our SketchUp plug-ins I can see that it has proliferated just about every industry that uses 3D.

In March 2006 @Last Software was acquired by Google. At that time people wondered why on earth Google was entering the CAD software industry. Actually it wasn’t. Here is the thing with Google. Its business model thrives on user generated content. Google had Google Earth and it wanted to populate it with 3D buildings. So it bought @Last Software with the intention of offering SketchUp as a free tool so that people could create and place their 3D buildings on Google Earth, among other things.

At the time Google took over SketchUp was at version 5. In January 2007, Google released SketchUp 6 which had new tools including a beta of Layout, the 2D vector drawing product. Obviously these were in development before Google acquired @Last Software. In November 2008, almost two year later, Google released version 7 of SketchUp, which in my opinion did not have enough new features that suggested that a respectable number of people were working on it for two full years. We are now in July 2010, more than a year and a half since version 7 came out and I can hear some talk of version 8. I am hoping that this time, Google will show that it still has some real interest in taking SketchUp forward.

Take a look at this notice on the SketchUp SDK download page:

Before you begin, we have one word of caution. Both the SkpReader and SkpWriter APIs were written prior to SketchUp’s acquisition by Google. Neither API is under active development. However, we do make bug fixes and provide limited support through the Google SketchUp Developers discussion group.

Personally I don’t find this encouraging at all.