Graphisoft's New CEO Discusses a New Product26 Jan, 2009 By: Kenneth Wong
Viktor Varkonyi forges ahead with emphasis on innovation.
In January, amid news of layoffs in the high-tech sector, Viktor Varkonyi, a veteran software engineer from Graphisoft’s R&D team, took the helm of the company as its new CEO. In this interview, Varkonyi assesses the AEC industry, shares his strategy for interoperability, and teases us with details about a soon-to-be-released product called Virtual Building Explorer.
KW: You’re taking over Graphisoft at a time when the economy is anything but healthy and the building industry is slowing down. How do you plan to navigate these tough times?
VV: At the year's end, we conducted a global survey among our customers to see how they feel about the economy. Of course, [the survey results] show they were not terribly optimistic. It shows the whole world is affected [by the crisis], but there are certain regions, for instance, Continental Europe, where this doesn’t seem so serious as it is in other regions. The backlog of projects among our customers are about three to six months shorter compared to a year ago, but on average they still have projects almost until the end of this year.
On the other hand, every challenge is an opportunity — not just for us but for our customers too. In these hard times they need to manage their business in an even more competitive environment; they have to bid more aggressively to get new jobs. Having great technologies will help them be more productive and efficient. Investing in technology can give them a competitive advantage.
KW: Graphisoft recently released ArchiCAD START 2009. How do you think it’ll be received?
VV: The START Edition typically targets a segment that’s much more price-sensitive, buyers who don’t instinctively consider any product in the $4,000-5,000 price range. So the START Edition [selling for $1,995] makes building information modeling (BIM) affordable to everybody. I want to emphasize that this is not lightweight BIM. The software has a very strong list of virtual building features.
KW: Is there a difference between what some people call BIM and what Graphisoft refers to as virtual building?
VV: BIM has become the industry-standard phrase, what everyone is using now. When Graphisoft started doing BIM in the late 1980s, we just called it virtual building. In our view, the two concepts are interchangeable.
KW: How do you plan to promote interoperability?
VV: Interoperability among disciplines is a must; ArchiCAD fits well into this workflow today. But our strategy is different from other vendors’ — our core competence is in architecture, our mission is to deliver a best-in-class BIM solution to architects. At the same time, this absolutely includes providing a smooth workflow to consultants who use professional, proven engineering solutions. In our strategy, we always connect with the leading engineering solutions of the local market, no matter who the vendor is. How we link ArchiCAD to these products depends on the partnerships [between Graphisoft and the other software suppliers]. It might be through a direct link; it might be through polished IFC standards.
KW: What should we look forward to from Graphisoft in the near future?
VV: My mission, if I may say, is to keep innovation as our top priority. We’ve always been an innovative company, so I’ll pay a lot of attention to keep it alive and drive the industry forward. One example is the new product we’ll be announcing soon. It’s called Virtual Building Explorer. It would give you real-time interaction with a virtual building, to explore the design, to take measurements and run queries — without requiring a BIM software license. That means you don’t have to have ArchiCAD installed to look at an ArchiCAD project or navigate an ArchiCAD model. You can explore not just the geometry but all the BIM elements and properties. This could be a powerful tool for the principals to review the staff’s work or our customers to efficiently
KW: How much will it sell for?
VV: Depending on the purchasing terms, its price-list will start at $395 for Graphisoft customers on maintenance contract. We’ll announce the full price-list when we announce the product itself.
KW: Will it work with your competitors’ BIM models? Will you be able to view, for example, an Autodesk Revit or Bentley model with Virtual Building Explorer?
VV: Not at this time.