A year after the release of AutoCAD for Mac, Autodesk decided to take a bigger bite of the Apple market. This week, the company is releasing not only an updated version of AutoCAD for Mac but also AutoCAD LT for Mac and AutoCAD WS for Mac.
“Since the release of AutoCAD for Mac last year, customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, further validating the need for professional design and engineering software on the Mac platform,” said Amar Hanspal, senior vice president, Autodesk Platform Solutions and Emerging Business. “Bringing AutoCAD LT and AutoCAD WS to the Mac shows our continued commitment to making design more accessible for an ever-greater number of people to shape the world around them.”
According to the announcement, “AutoCAD LT for Mac follows common native Mac application user interface guidelines, with a familiar Apple menu bar together with a number of workflow-based palettes. AutoCAD LT for Mac also supports native Mac OS X behavior, including Cover Flow navigation and Multi-Touch gestures.”
Licensing options for AutoCAD for Mac now includes network licensing. AutoCAD LT is not available for network licensing.
Venturing Beyond Professional Market
Whereas the company’s flagship drafting and drawing program AutoCAD remains a professional title, its lighter, nimbler cousins AutoCAD LT and AutoCAD WS can comfortably fit into the prosumer market (which straddles the consumer and professional markets). AutoCAD WS, the company’s DGW viewing and markup app, has been available for some time for Apple iPhone and iPad users and Android users. The latest version released is intended for Mac machines running Apple OS X Lion. The software is free.
The company continues to distribute AutoCAD for Mac through its reseller channel, but it is also experimenting with selling products through Apple app store. Autodesk has been selling its free and modestly priced products, such as AutoCAD WS for iPhone and iPad and Autodesk SketchBook Mobile, through the App Store for some time. However, distributing AutoCAD LT (priced $899) through App Store is a gamble for the company, as App Store buyers are more accustomed to purchasing products with micro-pricing (for instance, $1.99 for a song, $4.99 for a game). Depending on the success of its experiment with AutoCAD LT on App Store, the company is expected to push more semi-professional and consumer-usable software titles through this venue. In addition, Autodesk plans to offer Mac-compatible titles through Amazon.com, starting September 1.
Offering its titles through Apple App Store and Amazon.com may be an educational experience, both for buyers and for Autodesk. Apple App Store, for instance, doesn’t support software subscription — a method Autodesk has been using to peddle some of its most popular titles. For the version of AutoCAD for Mac offered through Amazon.com (available for subscription licensing), Autodesk can’t rely on resellers to provide technical support, so buyers will need to use a mix of resources (Autodesk technical support, online training center, blogs, and discussion groups) to master the software and troubleshoot.
The move to go beyond its traditional distribution channel (Autodesk authorized resellers) and venture into consumer-friendly territories reflects the company’s aspiration to explore the outskirts of professional market. A few months ago, Autodesk released 123D, a lightweight 3D design program based on its direct-editing technology Inventor Fusion. The product targets tinkerers, hobbyists, craft makers, and homegrown inventors — all part of the do-it-yourself movement fueling online commerce at sites like Etsy and attendance at trade shows like Maker Faire. This month, Autodesk acquired Instructables, an online portal where ordinary people share project ideas and collaborate.
“Passionate, creative people want communities to support and encourage their endeavors,” said Samir Hanna, vice president of Consumer Products at Autodesk. “As a result of this acquisition, Autodesk will host a unique ecosystem that combines inspiration, accessible 3D software tools and fabrication services so anyone can be empowered to express themselves creatively.”
Looking to Merge Windows and Mac Versions
In the long run, the company plans to reduce the distinction between Windows and Mac versions of AutoCAD, making them much more interchangeable. Laying the groundwork for this vision, the company now allows you to activate a copy of AutoCAD for Mac using the same licensing key on a Windows version. (In other words, if you have purchased a Windows version of AutoCAD, you can download a Mac version, then use the same key code printed on your Windows product box to activate the Mac version.)
In addition to selling AutoCAD as an independent title, Autodesk also includes the product with many of its industry-specific suites, such as Autodesk Design Suite (for general design), Autodesk Product Design Suite (for mechanical engineering and industrial design), and Autodesk Building Design Suite (for architecture and construction). By default, buyers get a Windows version of AutoCAD. However, the new dual-platform activation method will give suite buyers access a Mac version of AutoCAD without having to purchase another license.