CAD Central

31 Jan, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

The structure of an acquisition; saved by iPod; the new face of mid-market SaaS

The Structure of an Acquisition

It took Autodesk two tries — once in 2006 and again in 2007 — to bring Robobat into its fold. Based in Grenoble, France, Robobat develops and markets a line of software products for analyzing and designing steel and concrete structures. In June 2005, when Autodesk launched Revit Structure, the company made sure its new software was capable of bidirectional data exchange with industry-standard structural analysis packages, including Robobat's ROBOT Millennium. Pushing the Revit platform further down the construction workflow is consistent with Autodesk's building information modeling (BIM) vision, centered on the use of a single 3D model for all phases of the building lifecycle.

 Autodesk s recent acquisition of ROBOBAT promises tighter integration between Revit and ROBOT Millenium, shown above.
Autodesk s recent acquisition of ROBOBAT promises tighter integration between Revit and ROBOT Millenium, shown above.

Autodesk made its first move in September 2006, tendering $33 million for Robobat. Jay Bhatt, vice-president of Autodesk Building Solutions at the time, said, "We are pleased to welcome Robobat, their industry-leading software and technology and their community of customers to Autodesk." But the deal fell through.

In November 2007, Autodesk made another move, this time offering $42.5 million. Bhatt, now senior vice-president of Autodesk's AEC Solutions, explained, "Over the past year, Autodesk and Robobat have continued to work closely on product integration and to resolve the business issues that prevented Autodesk from completing the acquisition in 2006." On January 15, 2008, Robobat officially became part of Autodesk.

For the near future, nothing is about to change. But over time, "Autodesk will integrate Robobat technology into Autodesk structural engineering products such as Revit Structure and the AutoCAD Revit Structure suite, and the Robobat products will be marketed under the Autodesk brand," says Autodesk's FAQ on the acquisition.

The New Face of Mid-Market SaaS

The next time you meet Craig Livingston at a conference, he may be handing you a new business card. Out with the old card from Agile, which touts him as the vicepresident and general manager of SME [small and medium enterprises] Solutions. He's just been named CEO of Arena Solutions, one of Agile's biggest competitors.

Agile's on-demand licensing (offered under Agile Advantage) and Arena's software as a service (SaaS) model appealed to the small and medium-sized businesses with limited IT budgets looking for alternative product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions. Last year, database giant Oracle snatched up Agile in May 2007 for $495 million.

So what's the fate of Agile Advantage, Agile's SMB-friendly offering? Oracle's FAQ document for Agile Advantage customers (as it stands in January 2008) reads, "Oracle has made a significant commitment to the SaaS and on-demand segments . . . We will provide more information soon on our Agile On Demand plans." In its open letter to Agile customers, Hardeep Gulati, Oracle's vice-president of PLM and product information management (PIM), assures, "We plan to deliver even more of the leading features of our emerging and mid-size customer solution, Agile Advantage, into Agile 9, now called Agile PLM."

As the new corporate steward of Arena, Livingston invariably will find himself battling some of his former colleagues from Agile, now marching under the Oracle flag towards the SMB territory.

Saved by iPod

Your teenage daughter's portable MP3 player may be more useful than you think. Hugo Riveros is an ArchiCAD user and an associate at ML Design (, a multidisciplinary, architectural design firm. When his employer's project server crashed in the middle of a deadline rush, Riveros found out just how useful an iPod could be. No one was able to access the project files for a $300 million office tower. The only reference available was an ArchiCAD draft file saved on Riveros' computer. So he created an ArchiCAD Teamwork file in his iPod for collaboration.

"I had the idea that if one person could sign in multiple times for different people, and then save those respective drafts onto the iPod, we could possibly take the iPod to another computer, copy the draft for them onto their machines, and allow them to continue work. We had seven people working on a teamwork project without a server!" said Riveros.

After discovering that an iPod could be an efficient file-swapping mechanism, Riveros began carrying around sample works, templates, and libraries on the portable device. "Whenever I meet with a client, I always have what I need in the palm of my hand," he said.

Macbook on Thin Air

The scene stealer at the latest Macworld Conference and Expo (January 14–18, Moscone Center, San Francisco) was the Macbook Air, a 3-lb notebook that's so slim you can easily slip it into an interoffice mail envelope. Although the chassis may be thin, its track pad is bigger and broader.

Weighing 3 lbs and measuring less than 1-inch thick, the wafer-thin Macbook Air was the superstar of Macworld 2008.
Weighing 3 lbs and measuring less than 1-inch thick, the wafer-thin Macbook Air was the superstar of Macworld 2008.

Many of the fingertip computing capabilities in iPod Touch are making their ways into the Macbook Air. For instance, you can rotate an image, resize an application window, dock a view, or activate the secondary menu items by dragging, moving, and tapping your fingers on the notebook's track pad.

Mac's steady penetration into the PC-dominated CAD market is represented by the popularity of dual-platform software packages, such as auto•des•sys' form•Z, Graphisoft's ArchiCAD, and Nemetschek North America's VectorWorks Architect.

In addition to portability and lightness, Macbook offers a wide track pad that responds to touch.
In addition to portability and lightness, Macbook offers a wide track pad that responds to touch.

Like Microsoft's Surface Computer (see "Microsoft Gets Touchy," CAD Central, Cadalyst, July 2007), Macbook Air may inspire some innovative software vendors to redesign their user interfaces. By incorporating the latest devices' responsiveness to touch, vendors might be able to provide better ways to examine CAD models in virtual environments.

The Society Page

Do you know someone who has made a remarkable contribution to the CAD community? If so, now is the time to speak up. The CAD Society, a nonprofit organization that promotes camaraderie among those who make their living in the CAD community, is seeking nominees for its 2008 CAD Society Awards. "The three awards the CAD Society present every year is its way of recognizing those who have contributed to the CAD/CAM industry in various ways," said Mike McGrath, president of the CAD Society.

The organization seeks nomi-nees for the Leadership Award, the Joe Greco Community Award (named after the late CAD writer Joe Greco, 1963–2004), and the Lifetime Award.

CAD Society board members will review all nominations on March 1, 2008 and will determine the award winners for each of the three categories. Nominations should be e-mailed to by February 28.

The recipients of the awards will be announced on the CAD Society Web site before the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software meeting (COFES 2008). The awards will be presented at COFES 2008, held April 10–13, 2008 in Scotts-dale, Arizona.

Previous award recipients include Chris Yessios, founder of auto•des•sys (2006 Joe Greco Award); Stephen Wolfe, a veteran CAD journalist and consultant (2004 Lifetime Award); and Dana K. "Deke" Smith, who worked towards establishing a national BIM standard (2006 Leadership Award).

About the Author: Kenneth Wong