Autodesk will announce 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 ceased AutoCAD development for Macintosh systems, Autodesk saw an opening for its flagship product after Apple abandoned its historic reliance on RISC-based PowerPC processors. As Autodesk Senior Vice President of Platform Solutions and Emerging Business Amar Hanspal explained, “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. According to Hanspal, 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.”
Some features from the existing Windows version didn’t make the transition to the Mac version, as Hanspal admitted, particularly network-based licensing (which allows licenses to float from one machine to another) and Visual Basic support. On the other hand, features of Mac OS X such as Cover Flow views and Spotlight search are supported in AutoCAD for Mac, as are Apple’s multitouch devices such as the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad.
The decision to support Apple’s mobile devices was equally customer-driven, Hanspal noted. “The iPad’s become a crossover device,” with “the perfect form factor.” Devices such as the iPhone and iPad make looking up designs when in the field “practical,” he added.
AutoCAD for Mac and AutoCAD WS will be available “before the fourth quarter,” said Hanspal, and will be formally launched at an event featuring executives from Autodesk and Apple, at San Francisco’s One Market Plaza.