Lynn Allen interview

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At last yearÝs AUGI Design Academy in Birmingham, AEC Consulting Editor, John Marchant caught up with Lynn Allen, worldwide Autodesk Technical Evangelist

Lynn Allen of Autodesk.

Since the introduction of the 2007 release, AutoCAD has featured enhanced capabilities for working in 3D. I asked Lynn Allen if these new capabilities have seen an increased uptake of 3D. ýI would probably say it helped some. Anything that makes it easier for people to get their jobs done regardless of the program makes me a happy person. You still have a lot of people who love AutoCAD, who are focussed on the 2D aspects and who donÝt want to leave AutoCAD, though they may dabble in 3D occasionally. The 3D in AutoCAD 2007 was much more user friendly compared with previously. Using 3D on AutoCAD is a good step for them and I certainly think more people have been willing to give it a try.¯

She notes, ýI am still of the mindset that if people are ready to make the move to 3D, they will make the move. I think we can do all of these things to try to make it easier for them but I still believe there is usually some catalyst that occurs – either they lost an account to a competitor who is using say Inventor – and begrudgingly people often are forced to 3D . However, once people do it, they think Ùwhy didnÝt I do it soonerÝ. I think AutoCAD is a good place to start, though if they truly want to work fully in 3D they should go to Inventor or Revit, for example.¯

Looking at the attendees at the AUGI Design Academy, I formed the view that almost all attendees were AutoCAD users. Did Lynn agree? ýI didnÝt get that feeling at the lunch time session,¯ she said. ýI was impressed at how many hands went up when asked who were Inventor users, or Revit users. Maybe they needed a good meal first!!¯ She added, ýAt these events there tend to be more AutoCAD users than anything, then LT, and I would say a big chunk of Revit or Architectural Desktop users, then Inventor.¯ Lynn also pointed out, if you come to a conference like this, youÝll find Inventor classes and Revit classes, which they would not have if there was no demand.¯

Inventor LT is a cut down version of Inventor, for part modelling only, and is currently available free of charge but only to those in the US and Canada though it is expected to eventually sell for $1,000 or so. YouÝd have thought that Autodesk would have paid more attention to its customers outside the US, given that Autodesk earns something like 60% of its $ 1.8 billion revenues outside America. This is a missed opportunity in my opinion. Be that as it may, what does Lynn think about the product? She responds, ýI love the fact that it gives people the chance to try the product and see if they like it before they spend the money on it. I am a huge fan of that. I like the fact that it opens the door for teenagers, college students, for the guy who wants to work at home. It opens a lot of doors.¯

The levels of Autodesk vertical products are always of interest to commentators. Out of AutodeskÝs $1.8 billion annual revenue, 44% is earned from the sale of AutoCAD, AutoCAD LT and other platform products, 18% from MCAD, 13% from architecture and construction products, 12% from infrastructure products and 13% from media and entertainment. Thus some 56% of revenue is now earned from ÙverticalÝ products. Lynn again, ý ThatÝs good. Not too long ago, AutoCAD was bigger than all the verticals put together. People still love AutoCAD and it is still strong especially in Asia.¯ Robert Green in his CAD ManagerÝs Survey 2007 notes that people are not jumping off the ship to 3D with only 6% of users working fully in 3D. How does Lynn feel about that? ýItÝs a gradual process,¯ she says, ýand I totally believe that. As I said earlier, people will go when they are ready. Right now, people are trying it ± looking at it ± some people have jumped in with both feet ± but I thought his numbers were good. It was interesting how people were not running the 3D as fast as they thought they would ± but they are moving that way.¯ She qualifies this by saying, ýItÝs a no brainer in manufacturing ± they know that is the way it has to go. Architects have a different mindset altogether. They just think differently and we need to work with them differently. We need to help them through the whole process rather than just selling it to them.¯

Autodesk has a history of acquiring other companies and other technologies ± Micro Engineering Solutions, Woodbourne, Genius, Softdesk, Alias and now NavisWorks. That must leave a legacy of various user interfaces. Lynn comments, ýAutodesk is aware that our software does not all look the same. We really want our users to feel comfortable when they move from one product to the next, though we donÝt want to take away from the existing software, we donÝt want to take away from the people who are comfortable with it the way it is. Marc GoldwinÝs job is to make sure that everything works together and has the same Ùlook and feelÝ. You should talk to him.¯

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