Show Report -- Autodesk University 2005:Foggy Forecast of Technology to Come

4 Dec, 2005

Autodesk University 2005 drew more than 5,200 customers, a new attendance record, to Orlando, Florida, last week. Autodesk took the opportunity to demonstrate new technology in the works, adding the disclaimer particular functions may or may not eventually appear in a future release of an Autodesk product. (Such are the burdens of a publicly traded company.) Next week in Cadalyst Newsline, we’ll cover some of the highlights from the expo floor.

Coming Sooner, or Later. On the horizon for some future version of AutoCAD is mass modeling functionality for conceptual design, similar to that found in SketchUp. Users can draw simple 2D lines and extrude into 3D shapes, then add colors and apply styles such as overhanging lines. It would also be possible to perform sun and shadow studies. Also priorities for future releases are enhanced 2D documentation, better interoperability with competitors such as DGN, and incorporation of Express Tools into the core product. Autodesk’s new RealDWG program should ensure that updated third-party products are available at the same time as new versions of AutoCAD.

Autodesk was able to speak about products that don’t already exist. Vespa is the current name for a nonphotorealistic illustration tool that Autodesk plans to release in 2006. It will accept CAD files and retain the CAD data, so users will be able to replace certain blocks with trees, for example. Once in Vespa, a design can be embellished with line effects, fills and entourage. Users can create style maps that can be applied to other files. Vespa will export to DWF and various raster formats. There will also be an export-to-Adobe Photoshop option for images that require additional work.

Under the Hood. Autodesk is awakening to the latest trends in high-performance hardware: 64-bit processing and multithreading, which enables an application to maximize the benefit of a dual-processor system or multicore processor. For the next-generation 3D applications such as Inventor and Revit, both are important: “All of our product lines will go there,” says Buzz Kross, vice-president of the Manufacturing Solutions Division.

John Sanders, executive vice-president of the Design Solutions Division, says that Autodesk is devoting “a significant amount of resources” to implementing 64-bit support in AutoCAD. Though customers aren’t demanding it, he says, this will enable products built on AutoCAD to handle larger models. However, the company won’t implement multithreading support throughout the product, but only in areas where it will yield greatest benefit: plotting and rendering, for example.

The Discreet division has already implemented 64-bit support, and sees GPU acceleration as the next frontier for boosting performance.

Business Highlights. Autodesk reports that sales of Inventor seats have passed the half-million mark, and more than 12,000 sites have implemented Vault. As further proof of the spread of 3D, last quarter Autodesk sold 7,700 units of Civil 3D and 8,600 seats of Revit. Next year’s AU is scheduled to return to Las Vegas (at the Venetian) on November 28-December 1.