First, I’ll admit Mac users have engineering software such as Matlab, Labview and AutoCAD. For 3D design and analysis in OSX there are few software platforms that are considered powerful CAD programs. Available CAD platforms are Sketchup, Maya, TinkerCAD but why not Solidworks, Autodesk Inventor, Parametric Creo, NX, ANSYS or even NASTRAN?
Apple BootCamp provides Windows capabilities
Since 2006, Mac users have been able to install Windows to a second partition or hard drive. The only prerequisite is installing BootCamp and having an Intel processor. This development has had both positive and negative effects on engineering software becoming native to the Mac platform. It has enabled anyone with Apple hardware to install CAD software for design and analysis. This in turn has provided software companies with a financial incentive to develop high-end programs for the Apple platform.
Delivering on CAD promises
In 2010, Solidworks CEO Jeff Ray told the world Mac users would be getting Solidworks. It’s been 6 years Jeff, where is it? To answer this question, a reason could be that former executives raised enough capital to develop OnShape. A cloud computing CAD platform that runs natively on any Mac. One advantage of OnShape is that it allows both PC and Mac users to design and analyse cooperatively in real time. While this is advantageous to corporations and educational environments, cloud platforms are a drawback to users who prefer standalone installations.
A second argument he presented was, “…we have to be every bit as committed to that platform as we have been to Windows. Given the hundreds of developers we have working on Windows we can’t just go to them and say, ‘Starting tomorrow, you’ll start working on Mac.’”. He is correct in the sense that Solidworks would have to be every bit as committed but suggesting he would use the same developers for both Windows and Mac is completely inaccurate and unrealistic. Statements like this suggest there may be other reasons behind what is to all intents and purposes a commercial decision.
Is it all about the money?
Jeff Ray’s statements could be interpreted as a financial decision. We all appreciate that an immense amount of resources would be needed to develop engineering software for a new platform. Dedicating the required assets may not create the desired returns demanded by shareholders and boards of directors of today. However, if companies are unwilling to take a chance on new and potentially lucrative markets, where will tomorrow’s growth come from? What happened to innovation, companies willing to take a risk to stand out from the rest?
Future Engineering Software
The future of CAD design for most companies appears to be moving towards the cloud. Dassault Systèmes and Autodesk have already implemented versions of Solidworks and Inventor for cloud CAD development. A key advantage is both PC and Mac designers using the same CAD software, regardless of platform, which would simplify installation to licensing maintenance. OnShape recently conducted a study asking professional CAD designers what their biggest complaints were when working on large products. The top complaints were using different versions of software, licensing fees and loss of data. It’s beginning to make sense why so many companies are pushing the cloud platform.
Mac software for the near future
Mac users would be ecstatic if given the option to install standalone software packages such as SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor. Unfortunately at the moment it appears more beneficial for companies to move towards cloud CAD platforms to control costs and maximise exposure. Cloud platforms will make it easier for companies to produce and maintain high quality software. This would also make it more financially feasible to release regular updates in the future.
As of 2016, users willing to convert to cloud computing will have their desires met. However, Mac users who are waiting for companies to develop natively for Apple platforms could be waiting for some time with no guarantee of change in the foreseeable future. Is there a potentially enormous market awaiting any company willing to take a chance on fulfilling this appetite on Apple platforms? Are there any companies out there who are brave enough to take a short-term hit for potentially huge long-term income streams?