Going Mobile

9 Jun, 2012 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

Will most of us be workplace nomads by 2014?

Our Cadalyst Labs report on mobile CAD ("CAD at Your Fingertips") cites a report on cloud trends by research firm IDC that predicts that 46% of all professionals will be mobile-only by 2014. That statistic shocks me! Can you imagine nearly half of your peers abandoning the desktop computing environment?

Upon further reflection, it becomes clear that although there's a significant movement toward mobile CAD, it's not likely that this statistic will hold true for CAD-using professionals. CAD users are a highly productive bunch, and achieving that level of productivity likely requires planting yourself in a chair in front of a desktop setup that includes complex software; a powerful and comfortable hardware configuration; a fast, reliable Internet connection; and a place to set your coffee.

You probably won't be going all-mobile in the next couple of years because the complicated tasks that compose your job — drafting, 3D modeling, rendering, analysis — require software that doesn't exist in a mobile app, and likely won't for some time. Even if such apps were to be developed or if that software became available on the cloud, could you be productive using it with a 10" display and your fingertip as your input device? No.

Hardware developers know this about the CAD user, which is why, despite the buzz around cloud technologies and mobile computing, heavy hitters are still bringing ever-more-powerful technology to market that targets the CAD user who sits at a desk: Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge processors for desktop workstations; HP with its brand-new all-in-one workstation, as well as BOXX and @Xi with their latest powerhouse desktop workstations; NVIDIA's new Maximus technology, which radically ramps up workstation performance; 3Dconnexion with another 3D navigation device for professional users, the SpaceMouse Pro; and companies such as Riverbed and Aryaka that continue to base their networking solutions on the reality that CAD users create huge files that must physically move from one office to another, rather than sit on the cloud.

These companies, and dozens of their competitors, would not be investing in these developments if CAD were poised to go all-mobile anytime soon. Don’t get me wrong: I'm not discounting the mobile CAD movement. As our cover story explains, it is going strong. At least 100 CAD-related mobile apps are already on the market — we managed to squeeze about 75 of them into the list we compiled for you — and I'd gamble that the number will double or even triple by this time next year. Each new development in this arena gives CAD users another reason to opt for the convenience of mobile computing. But for the future I foresee, mobile CAD will evolve to supplement desktop CAD, not replace it.

What are your thoughts about mobile vs. desktop computing for CAD-related work? What are you doing now, and what do you see in your future? Join Cadalyst on Facebook or post to our group on LinkedIn and get the discussion started!

About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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