Editor's Window31 Oct, 2005 By: Sara Ferris Cadalyst
Talking turkey: Nine things to be thankful for this year.
At First Glance, this year's CAD Thanksgiving is all boiled squash and Brussels sprouts. A majority of respondents to a recent poll on our Web site are concerned about losing their jobs to outsourcing. Robert Green's annual CAD Manager's Survey reveals disturbing trends that indicate the job of the CAD manager is being marginalized: few full-time CAD managers, no discipline authority and more (see for his findings). On top of all that are general economic worries that persist in the aftermath of the harsh hurricane season. So we don't lose sight of the bright spots, here's a quick list of welcome developments this year.
1. Economic indicators, both industry gauges and the fortunes of software vendors, are turning cautiously upward. The robust earnings reports from software vendors indicate that many customers are investing in software upgrades.
2. Hardware costs continue to track downward, so the same amount of money today buys much more performance than it did a year ago. Gee-whiz devices such as large LCD monitors and 3D motion-controllers are now commonplace on the CAD desktop, and more and more companies are able to consider bigger-ticket items like rapid prototyping systems and 3D laser scanners.
3. CAD applications are packing in more and more functionality, in most cases without jacking up the price. As part of his industry checkup this month, Mike Hudspeth looks at some of the top new features found in today's mechanical CAD applications.
4. Despite dire predictions otherwise, no major consolidation has taken place in the CAD industry. There have been blockbuster acquisitions, but most are aimed at adding complementary technology to augment core CAD products.
5. Healthy competition (see #4) has produced a cornucopia of useful, free tools. Autodesk did an about-face on dropping its free DWG viewer and recently released DWG TrueView. It also threw in a free DWG converter that opens old versions of the format. Not to be outdone, SolidWorks added PDF support to its free DWG converter. Alibre is even giving away a light version of its CAD product.
6. Growing need to work with far-flung offices and suppliers, and the desire to reuse design content downstream, is putting pressure on vendors to work on the interoperability issue. Various groups are forming around potential standards as well, though it's too early to tell whether any will have the wherewithal to put some muscle behind enforcement.
7. Some mainstream CAD vendors are now supporting the Linux operating system, making that a viable option for architecture and manufacturing firms.
8. It's never been easier to have it your way. Numerous options are available for software licensing (perpetual, annual, hosted, etc.), training methods (classroom, online, video, books, etc.), technical support and more.
9. The next version of Windows, Vista, didn't make it to market this year, as originally anticipated, sparing you the headache of evaluating and possibly implementing a major operating system upgrade.