Based on our evaluation of the Macintosh II, ongoing communications with Apple, the emergence of competitive products on the Macintosh, pressure from dealers, and the intention of major accounts to install that machine, in late 1987 Autodesk committed to developing a CAD product for the Macintosh, and one of our most senior developers was assigned exclusively to the project.
Based on technical considerations which made it appear impossible to directly port AutoCAD to the Macintosh, and also from an understanding that products from other platforms merely ported to the Macintosh were unsalable, Autodesk committed to a multi-man-year development effort with the goal of implementing a new CAD product for the Macintosh. The initial operating capability of the product was anticipated to be at least a year from the inception of the project, and to be a two-dimensional product with the functionality of a much-extended AutoSketch. Feedback from Apple was contradictory; on the one hand they ``needed AutoCAD to sell the engineering market'' but also wanted a Macintosh-specific product which provided unique value-added based on the application commonality of the Macintosh.
I could not personally believe that Autodesk had so lightly committed to developing a totally new CAD product which, to justify the resources which would be expended in developing it, would eventually spawn marketing, training, support, and development costs comparable to those for AutoCAD, to address a single market whose total size, using the most generous measure, was 10% of the size of the market for AutoCAD. I also believed that in the one year estimated time to market (which I considered extremely optimistic), the window of opportunity to position a product on the Macintosh would close, particularly as Versacad was then beginning deliveries of a product with capabilities similar to those of the product we contemplated and we knew of several other entrants which would reach the market before we could.
In February of 1988, I started to investigate whether it would be possible, by various means, to port AutoCAD to the Macintosh II. By February 15th, 1988 I had demonstrated AutoCAD Release 10 running on the Macintosh II in 5 megabytes of memory. Immediately this was demonstrated, the previously-committed project to develop a new CAD system for the Macintosh evaporated and was replaced by a project to port AutoCAD Release 10 to the Macintosh, while adding some Macintosh-specific capabilities. While I was happy to see Autodesk adopt what I personally believed not only a more realistic but also a more beneficial goal for a Macintosh product, the whole experience of the definition, destruction, and redirection of the Macintosh product does not show Autodesk's formulation of strategy and technical decision making in its best light.
To wit, what if I had done what I was supposed to be doing in the first two weeks of February, rather than fooling around with a Macintosh? Or, what if I had not been given a Macintosh II to play around with? Where was the serious evaluation of our alternatives with regard to the Macintosh before committing to a multi-year development effort? Where were the trade-offs weighed among that project and numerous other claims on our development resources? Why, if it wasn't a good idea to port AutoCAD when it wasn't thought possible, did it become a good idea when I proved it was possible after all?
Editor: John Walker