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An Opportunity

At the same time, we cannot ignore other technologies such as solids modeling and parametric design. A large amount of money is spent each year on `high-end'' technology. As I will discuss later, most of this is spent by large companies in the process of making high-level, corporate-wide strategic decisions, decisions which have very little to do with practical, day-to-day efforts, but with systems and technology which, it is believed, will affect the company's future, and its ability to compete.

I believe that a real opportunity exists in the area of what is being called ``design automation.'' It is here that the next attack on the turnkey vendors will take place and, with Autodesk's participation, this attack may be fatal. The last large attack was, of course, mounted by companies such as Autodesk, which drew large numbers of users away from the turnkey vendors, and which left them whole, but broken.

Within the vanguard of the movement toward design automation were companies such as Cognition and Aries who, like many companies first on the scene, could not see the future clearly enough to compete successfully against the turnkey vendors. The second wave is represented by companies such as Parametric Technologies Corporation and Ashlar Vellum, and many others sure to follow. These products now offer clever and innovative approaches to design, and will surely contribute toward changing the methods of design engineering in much the same way that the Macintosh changed the way we interact with computers.

Autodesk should be in this fight for dominance in the engineering design market. The most important reason is that this market provides us with an opportunity to take advantage of the weakness and stupidity of our high-end competition; and gives us a real chance to take a run at leadership of the traditional CAD/CAM/CAE market by offering a useful, well-crafted, competitive system at the so-called ``high-end'' of design. This should not be difficult for us to do and the probability of success, in some significant form, seems to be almost certain.

Secondly, we have all the technology necessary to be competitive in this market, plus an advantage shared by no one else: an awesome presence in the CAD/CAM industry throughout the world, and a loyal following which is ready-made to extend our mastery from drafting/drawing to engineering design.

It will not simply be a matter of technology which will determine our success here. It is my view that the two industries of desktop CAD and turnkey CAD/CAM/CAE are vastly different, one from the other, and a strategy of success in one market will not guarantee similar success in the other. Not only are the companies which provide product for these two markets themselves different, but the motivation which drives them to develop features for their customers is also different. In fact, the users of each type of system themselves share few similarities, especially in what they expect from their systems.

For this reason, and many others, I do not believe that we can be successful attempting to cover the broad market, providing solutions for ``low-end'' drafting and drawing, and high-end design and integration with one product, and that a successful strategy will require covering the market with different products.

This strategy would have us create two products. One of them would remain AutoCAD, allowing us to continue our self-evident path of success in the area of drafting and drawing production at which we are the world's most successful.

The second product, based upon AutoCAD, could be aimed, easily and almost without effort, toward filling a vacuum at the high-end, left by the short-sighted, old-fashioned, and bankrupt practices of the turnkey vendors. Such a product might be called ``AutoCAD Designer.''

Containing competitive technology, and focused on solving important problems in the design segment of the manufacturing process, as AutoCAD was focused on the drafting/drawing process, the Designer would provide Autodesk with the ability to make significant inroads into a customer community which has traditionally been all turnkey-based.

If we were to achieve success here, there would be few places left for these dinosaurs to hide and a drastic ``re-adjustment'' should occur in the high-end vendor community within a few years as the very foundation of their business begins to disappear. Almost as significantly, we would be able to short-circuit the success of companies such as Parametric Technologies Corporation (PTC), whose customers would find it an easy decision to transfer their loyalty, and their money, to a company which is becoming an institution in the CAD/CAM market.

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Editor: John Walker