Autodesk has just finished its press launch of the next release of AutoCAD, AutoCAD 2010 (they say it as ’twenty ten’). While the program is still in beta, first customer shipment is expected around March. While AutoCAD may be considered old hat in the world of modelling, or the defacto standard 2D solution, it appears that Autodesk has decided to give AutoCAD a new direction adding powerful 2D constraints and intuitive free-form modelling.
While the modelling and the constraints are shocking additions, Autodesk has also beefed up the standard 2D command set, adding in the now familiar AUGI (Autodesk User Group International) top wish list features. The main new capability being the capability to import PDF for underlays.
The bad news is that with all these additions the file format changes with the introduction of a 2010 format. It’s possible to SaveAs to a number of previous AutoCAD release formats. This time round Autodesk has included the ability to SaveAs AutoCAD R12 DXF for compatibility with releases back to AutoCAD 98.
Returning to the Constraints and Free Form capabilities, it seems that Autodesk has chosen to stop limiting the capabilities of AutoCAD within its greater 3D product range, especially Inventor and Revit. Parametric constraints and modelling have long been hailed as one of the key differentials between draughting and virtual design. It seems that Autodesk has internally accepted that many AutoCAD customers will not easily or quickly move to their vertical products as the draw of AutoCAD is still very strong. By adding these powerful features to AutoCAD, the other vertical products which are built-ontop of AutoCAD also benefit, namely AutoCAD Mechanical, AutoCAD for Architecture and AutoCAD Civils. I assume the hope is that by introducing the technology, more customers will get the benefits and undergo migrations from AutoCAD. Or, this could be a defensive move to raise the stakes of competing against AutoCAD.
To reinforce this, probably by no coincidence but IMSI simultaneously released DoubleCAD XT, its AutoCAD clone, which is free for the base version. The company is targeting AutoCAD LT, which isn’t free (approx $1,000). While AutoCAD 2010 has 2D constraints, AutoCAD LT 2010 does not, getting only 2D enhancemnets like PDF underlays. The point here being that DoubleCAD XT does have 2D constraints and is free. If nothing else, this is good guerilla marketing.