Autodesk announced on Aug. 31 the planned release of AutoCAD for Mac, a native version of the company's professional design and engineering software built to run natively on Mac OS X, and the first version of AutoCAD for an Apple platform since George H.W. Bush was in the White House. The company will also unveil AutoCAD WS, a free mobile version for Apple iOS devices, which will allow viewing and editing of AutoCAD designs on the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.
Although it's been 18 years since the company abandoned AutoCAD development for Macintosh systems, Autodesk saw an opening for its flagship product after Apple abandoned its historic reliance on RISC-based PowerPC processors.
"Mac has gone from a consumer and student focus to a business platform," and Apple's move to Intel's CPUs made it "feasible" for Autodesk to consider returning to the Mac ecosystem, explained Amar Hanspal, Autodesk senior vice president of platform solutions and emerging business. "A lot of the optimizations that we'd done [over the years] on the Windows platform involved not just optimizing for Windows, but for Intel hardware."
The demand from the AutoCAD customer base for a Mac version of AutoCAD became noticeable a couple of years ago, and by early 2009, it was "time to get serious," he said.
Some features from the existing Windows version didn't make the transition to the Mac version. "We didn't put the things that didn't make any sense" for Mac OS X, Hanspal said. The two most notable features that won't be in AutoCAD for Mac are network-based licensing, which allows licenses to float from one machine to another, and Visual Basic support. "Instead, what we spent our time on were features that Mac users consider [part of] the core experience," such as Cover Flow views and Spotlight search, and Apple's multitouch devices such as the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad. "We didn't just stop at Windows parity; we did a bunch of Mac-native things."
The decision to support Apple's mobile devices was equally customer-driven, Hanspal noted. Devices such as the iPhone and iPad make looking up designs when in the field "practical," he said, later explaining that "we found our customers starting to use the iPad in their daily work... for concept sketches" and similar work. In short, "the iPad's become a crossover device," with "the perfect form factor." But Hanspal said the mobile application's "WS" designation doesn't really stand for anything.
AutoCAD for Mac and AutoCAD WS will be available by the end of this quarter; AutoCAD for Mac's suggested retail price will be $3,995.