Live from AU: Inventor Fusion for the Mac

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I’ve been waiting for this for some time, but it’s good to see it finally happen. Inventor Fusion is Autodesk’s take on the direct modelling movement. The ability to dynamically and directly manipulate 3D geometry. I’m pretty sure we’re all aware of how it works and the benefits you can derive by now.

From the demonstration and the discussion that followed, it’s clear that this has been in the planning for a while. This is a Mac OS X Native application. No Parallels, no virtualisation, no nothing. Native app. As a fan of the Mac, it’s good to see vendors taking the platform seriously and from just a cursory glance, it’s clear that Autodesk is doing this properly. The user interface isn’t a hacked about Windows UI stuffed into a DMG; it’s slick and effective. Some of the new tools within the next Technology Preview of Fusion are looking interesting too. So do you fancy a look?

According to the product manager for this area of Autodesk’s effort, Kevin Schneider, following the initial Fusion release two years ago, the team decided to rework the code from scratch and write it so it would be cross platform. The original code is still shipping and you’ll find it on the Labs web-site and supplied with AutoCAD and all the suites.The new code stream will first be delivered in the Mac version in the first quarter of 2012 and then we’ll start to see both the Windows and Mac native apps rely upon it. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the code you see isn’t running on a MacBook Pro, but an Air. That’s great news for everyone.

Other Fusion updates coming in the next technology preview include full support for assembly modelling with a real world language reference set – it’s not cylindrical constraints, it’s pins, hinges etc etc. you’ll see in the video that it works nicely and it works efficiently. It’s also worth taking notice of how the UI is changing and being adapted to make the system easier to use, particularly with the geometry manipulation helpers.

A game changer?

Yes. I think it is. Why? It has nothing to do with what users are wanting now (though I suspect, there will be someone already clamouring for this). It’s to do with the next generation of designers and engineers. Walk into a design school or an engineering college and you’ll see Apple hardware everywhere. In fact, Kevin gave an excellent example of testing out this system with students recently and 9 out of 10 turned up with a MacBook. There’s an interesting report here on the subject too, which states that Apple has a 25% market share. Now consider the markets that Autodesk serves, design/engineering, architecture, that share is going to be much, much higher.

Many already entrenched in design and engineering are sceptical about the Mac as a future platform, but it’s coming. That’s why Autodesk is investing in it. If you can gain trust and recognition with the next generation, you have a solid set of customers coming up. They’re doing it via the iOS apps, they’re doing it via the maker movement with the 123D initiatives and they’re doing it with Fusion.

By releasing Fusion on the Mac platform, they’re creating a capable and usable tool for those looking for engineering and design style CAD work. It’s clean, modern and fresh and on the platform the next generation of customers are going to want and probably demand. There’s also the fact that it’s free. I’d bet it stays that way for the foreseeable future. Because it’s the smart thing to do and its increasingly clear that Autodesk is making some of the smartest decisions in the industry at the moment.


PS: Oh – one more thing. A few of the press peeps after the event started talking about how it was cool to see Fusion on the iPad. I don’t know if that makes me want to laugh or cry.

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