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In the early days of the industry, Computer Assisted Design was the province of massive, honking workstation machines put out by companies like Silicon Graphics and Sun Microsystems.
These were pieces of proprietary software. They required proprietary hardware. They were expensive and they required extensive training to even use.
Now, CAD is a free smartphone app.
It’s also a tremendous application for industry-standard PCs. The CRN Test Center has continued to recommend releases from Autodesk, including Autodesk Inventor and AutoCAD 2010. Both are applications that are fantastic for industry-standard, Windows 7-based PCs and both allow for low-overhead but high-intensity design creation.
We’ve also liked Google SketchUp, a free, hosted and browserbased (and thus, cross-platform) design and sketch creation app.
But the opportunity isn’t just in the applications themselves. It comes from delivering these newer CAD solutions as part of a new model of creating, sharing and collaboration.
High-definition sketches created on a PC can be shared on any platform from Facebook to iPhone to other PCs. And the reverse is true, as well: With Autodesk SketchBook Mobile, AutoCAD WS and Inventor Publisher, designs can be created on an iPhone, for example, and shared through other collaboration applications and examined on PCs as well.
The enterprise has become more visual -- well beyond Power- Point -- and sketch and design creation, sharing and editing can drive collaboration and creativity to a higher level. The fact that PC-based CAD and smartphone-based CAD has expanded the total addressable market by tens of millions in just two years indicates a tremendous market is sitting before value-added resellers and solution providers. The investment -- by both enterprises and VARs -- is also minimal compared to other eras in the PC industry.
CAD can be a differentiator for any enterprise steeped in creativity and collaboration, and now the opportunity is greater than it has ever been.