Monday, March 25, 2013

The Future of AutoCAD WS: My interview with the AutoCAD WS Project Managers

Autodesk is best known for its flagship design program AutoCAD.   But did you know Autodesk has a mobile version of AutoCAD called AutoCAD WS?  I had a chance to talk with the great people at Autodesk that manage AutoCAD WS; Ilai Rotbaein (Manager, Product Management, AutoCAD Products) and Dusty DiMercurio (Marketing Manager, Small Business).  What they had to say was very interesting.



At the time of the interview AutoCAD WS had been downloaded a total of 10,000,000 times.  There were over 6.6 million downloads on the Android mobile platform with 4.1 million on the iOS mobile platform.  AutoCAD WS was first released over three years ago and is now on version 1.6.  Typically Autodesk has released their mobile apps on iOS first, but during the interview it was stated that they realize Android is closing the gap on hardware and software.  It is also obvious that more users are downloading AutoCAD WS to Android.  It is easier for developers such as Autodesk to create software for iOS because it has fewer hardware options to have to plan for.

One of the biggest questions that I had was what is in store for us in the next version of AutoCAD WS.   Ilai and Dusty where more than happy to give me clues as well as insight into what Autodesk has planned.

Here is a list of things that we can expect:

  • More tools that can be done on a tablet and not on a desktop
  • More gesture controls
  • More tools from the desktop
  • Sketching tools
  • Brush tool improvements
  • New tools


It seemed from the interview that Autodesk plans on making AutoCAD WS a truly mobile experience.  Autodesk is wise enough to understand that a tablet (and especially a phone) cannot do the same work a desktop can do so there is no reason to try.  Autodesk said that they want to bind each platform (desktop, mobile) together to be a series of tools that work together.  Each platform will focus on what its form factor can provide.  No platform will be an answer to everything but they will all work together.   That makes sense.

They did not give me a release date for the next release, but they did say that we should expect a new tool that is “new and that you won’t expect! It’s going to be different, new and groundbreaking.”  I was told that there is nothing like it!  I was also told that the next release will be very big and will address many features requested over the past two years.  You can imagine my frustration when talking with these gentlemen.  They would not budge nor would they give me any sneak peeks!  Only glimpses and teases of what is to come.

Being that AutoCAD WS and AutoCAD are meant to work together, I asked them several questions about the next version of AutoCAD and the platforms where you can use AutoCAD WS.

Question:  Will design feed come to AutoCAD?
Autodesk:  No comment.

Question:  Will there be a mobile version of Fusion?
Autodesk: There will be a web hosted version but they are not aware of a mobile version.

Question:  Will there be a Windows Phone version of AutoCAD WS?
Autodesk:  Autodesk is monitoring Windows Phone market share.  At some point the Windows Phone platform cannot be ignored any longer.

Question:  Will there be a Blackberry version of AutoCAD WS?
Autodesk:  A Blackberry version is not in the plans.

(my personal note: this is a very different answer from the Windows Mobile answer.)

Question: AutoCAD WS browser version is Flash based.  Will it ever fully switch to HTML 5?
Autodesk: Autodesk wants to stay current with programming so it will likely move away from flash.


We wrapped up our time discussing the future of AutoCAD WS with them sharing some thoughts and ideas on the product.  Autodesk’s goal is to “make AutoCAD WS your companion.”  They want to give users the tools needed in mobile and tools that allow greater collaboration.  They see AutoCAD WS as a tool that can markup, help design, change design, and sketch.  They want users to work together with these tools.  They look at where you logon to work and what tools you need there and they strive to create the appropriate tools.

They also expressed that the platform as a whole is moving and AutoCAD WS will be a part of it as an access point.

One last nugget that they left me with wasn’t specific, but they did say that the next release of AutoCAD will expand its AutoCAD WS abilities.

It seems that Autodesk means to create a platform that allows design professionals to work where, when and how they want and need.  AutoCAD WS is meant to provide a tool that allows light mobile access to our data.  They don’t see it as a standalone product, but a supplement.

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