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Another Look at Alibre’s Land Grab

By Kenneth Wong

Several weeks ago, Alibre began running a special discount, slashing the price of its Alibre Design Standard from $999 to $99. The dramatic price slash prompted a range of reactions in the CAD community. Some regarded it as a PR stunt. Some speculated on Alibre’s motive, wondering whether the company was desperate for revenue. Others welcomed it as a low-risk opportunity to delve into a full-featured midrange CAD program.

Max Freeman, Alibre’s VP of marketing, revealed the primary target of the offer is not “companies heavily vested in multi-seat SolidWorks or Inventor licensing agreements.” Rather, Alibre hopes the limited-time offer will get the attention of new businesses looking to invest in CAD or those looking to augment their existing CAD seats with complementary seats that cost less.

Since midrange CAD market is dominated by Autodesk Inventor, SolidWorks, and Siemens PLM Software’s Solid Edge, Alibre’s value proposition makes sense only if it can deliver interoperability with these packages. To be able to effectively exchange data with suppliers and subcontractors, you need not only an inexpensive CAD package but one that can import and export design files compatible with the other CAD programs.

To get to the bottom of this special offer, I downloaded the 30-day trial version of Alibre Design to see for myself what’s under the hood of the $99 product.

Sorting Out Alibre’s Product Lineup
Singling out the features that come with Alibre Design Standard takes quite a bit of deduction and research, because what you get when you download the 30-day trial is not Alibre Design but Alibre Design Professional, a product that’s one-level up, thus contains more features than the Standard version.

So when the trial period is over, you’ll find that some components of Professional are no longer accessible. They include the following:

  • Sheet metal tools

  • Direct-editing tools

  • Standard part libraries

  • Import options for SolidWorks, Inventor, Pro/ENGINEER, Catia, Parasolid, and Solid Edge

  • Export options for SolidWorks and Parasolid

Judging Alibre Design strictly on its 2D drafting, 3D modeling, and drawing creation tools alone, I believe the software offers enough features to make it worth its regular price of $999. At $99, the product is unquestionably a bargain.

But to put the software to good use in a production environment, you might have to invest in at least one add-on—Alibre Translate—so you can freely read and write native files from other CAD programs. Without the add-on, you’ll need to use intermediary file formats such as IGES, SAT, and STEP to exchange data. (For more watch the Video Edition of Virtual Desktop, MCAD News, August 27.)

Another Look at Alibre’s Land Grab Another Look at Alibre’s Land Grab

Figs 1 and 2. The 30-day trial downloadable from Alibre is Alibre Design Professional, which includes direct editing tools and sheet metal tools. However, Alibre Design, currently offered at a discount price of $99, doesn’t not include these components.

What Alibre Says
Has Alibre captured significant market share with this discount offer? Paul Grayson, Alibre’s CEO, said, “As a private company we don’t announce specific sales figures or promotional statistics. I can say that the response has greatly exceeded our expectations. Thousands of businesses and many individuals have taken advantage of this promotion.”

He cautioned the discount won’t last forever. It is, in his words, Alibre’s “end of model year sale.” In other words, once the new version, Alibre Design V12, is ready to ship, he’ll put an end to the $99 offer.

Freeman pointed out the current offer gives people the opportunity to obtain V12 at a lower cost too. By purchasing Alibre Design V11.2 ($99) along with the maintenance agreement ($299), you’ll become eligible to upgrade to V12 upon release.

Resellers and Plug-In Developers Weigh In
At $99, a value-added reseller’s (VAR) commission amounts to little or nothing, so Alibre’s discount inevitably tests the VAR-distribution model, the established standard in CAD sales. Grayson said, “Most resellers are eagerly promoting the offer worldwide and have seen a tremendous response. We have not gained or lost any resellers as a result of this promotion, nor did we expect to.”

One Alibre reseller, who requested to remain anonymous, revealed, “My ]Alibre] sales have gone to zero, as you can imagine. Everybody is calling Alibre to order the $99 special.”

Deelip Menezes, founder and CEO of SYCODE, slashed the prices for his company’s Alibre add-ons from $195 to $95. “The sales of our Alibre add-ons have jumped since we reduced our prices along with Alibre’s,” he noted.

Steve Carr from Carr Design Services, an authorized Alibre reseller, said, “I can’t offer any better deal than a buyer could get from Alibre at the present time … It has however, generated more Web traffic for Carr Design Services, and that in turn may generate more business in the future.”

Nevertheless, he continues to sell Alibre products because, “The price of the Professional ($1,499) and Expert ($1,999) versions hasn’t changed, and companies who need a serious CAD tool are going to opt for one of these versions.”

Carr remains, as he has always been, “a loyal supporter of Alibre.” He concurs with Alibre’s core philisophy—CAD for the masses—and he hopes “this offer tilts the playing field a bit more in Alibre’s direction, simply because the market deserves better that the biggest players can offer in the way of price versus functionality.”

(To leave your comments, visit “Aibre Slashes Prices by 90%,” August 10, 2009.)

About Kenneth Wong

Kenneth Wong is Desktop Engineering's resident blogger and senior editor. Email him at kennethwong@deskeng.com or share your thoughts on this article at deskeng.com/facebook.