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Graebert's CAD Software First to Run on Four OSes

By Ralph Grabowski, June 10, 2014

Article first appeared in upFront.eZine
Reprinted here with permission

Graebert Gmbh of Berlin last week announced that they had successfully ported their ARES CAD software to the Android operating system. Alpha testers report good performance. Now, I haven't run the software (code named Radon), and so my reporting is based on the statements of the software vendor - and not through independent verification.

We can, nevertheless, speculate. Here are the claims Graebert makes for Radon:

Sign up to request a beta from http://www.graebert.com/radon.

Q&A

During last week's conference call, I interviewed the company's ceo, Wilfred Graebert.

Q: Why Android? [When I last spoke with the company in Berlin, CTO Robert Graebert was keen on Apple products.]
A: It has by far the largest market share, and by next year tablets are expected to dominate desktop/laptop sales.

Q: Was it difficult to port desktop software to Android?
A: It was not complicated. The way our software is architected, it has the same code base for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and now Android. We are doing daily builds [compiling new code into a running program]. Our alpha testers have not found any great problems running it on Android.

Q: Might you use Radon's touch interface for a touch version that is specific to Windows 8?
A: ARES [for desktop] already runs well on Windows 8 tablets.

Q: It is five months before it will be released; why are you making the announcement this far in advance?
A: We are interested in a long beta to help developers create better apps. By running on a tablet, we see that there will be different packages dedicated to mobile, like for surveying.

Q: All Android tablets have between 1GB and 2GB of RAM; a few newer ones have 3GB. How can you fit a full CAD package, all the APIs, third-party apps, and several drawings into this small space [which must be shared with the entire operating system]?
A: We will be holding technical briefings in a few week's time. But don't forget we have a decade's worth of experience of running CAD on mobile devices, such as on Windows CE.

Q: Is the developer conference the first one for you?
A: We have had one every year in our head office, a small one for our customers. This conference will be larger, which we will hold somewhere in Berlin.

Mr Graebert ended with this promise: "This is only the first of several major announcements we have for the year."

I didn't get a chance to ask, "Why the name Radon?" But I can see that it fits with the ARES image as the god of war, aka Mars: radon is a radioactive gas whose isotopes are also all radioactive. Ask me privately why Graebert named its CAD software for war.

Radon Pricing

A key element will be the price of Radon, something that won't be announced until October. Between now and then, Graebert has a difficult decision to make: how much to charge? Prices of Android and iOS apps tend to be rock bottom, but charging $0 or a couple of dollars is no strategy for success. We know that CAD vendors don't get more downloads when the price is cheap - as my research in upFront.eZine #799 showed. (See "The State of portableCAD in 2013: Actual Download Statistics and Prices" at http://www.upfrontezine.com/2013/upf-799.htm.)

I doubt Radon will sell for $0 to $10, which is the typical price range for mobile apps. Keeping in mind that desktop ARES is $795, I expect Graebert to price Radon in the range of $95 to $445.

What the marketplace hasn't told us is whether higher prices for mobile apps can lead to greater sales. Professional users are willing to pay a higher price for software that makes them more revenue (or more efficient). The only precedent we have is IMSI/Design and their $499 iPad-based TurboSite Pro, but we don't know the sales figures. It's the most sophisticated markup program on the market; it's not a full CAD package.

But this is just one price point. Might Dassault Systemes license a 2D-only version of Radon and distribute it free (to compliment its free/not-free versions of ARES-based DraftSight)?

And how might Autodesk or IMSI/Design react? I wonder if there are functions hidden in AutoCAD 360 or TurboSite that are ready to be turned on, say, in the first week of October. It is a long time between now and then.

For Graebert, the point is not the CAD system, oddly enough. I think that for them this sentence from the press release is more significant:

"Through Radon, developers will be able to offer the same functionality and features on both tablet and desktop while maintaining the same core stream of code."

As Mr Graebert indicated in our interview, he is using the long lead time to entice third-party developers to get on board and develop add-ons that are hopefully different from desktop apps, ones that take advantage of the tablet being in the field. I doubt that Autodesk has mobile APIs that they are on the verge of unleashing, but IMSI/Design might.

Many Questions

These questions remain:

In part, Graebert is assisted by Open Design Alliance's work in porting Teigha libraries to Android, which handle DWG, DXF, and DGN import/export, some APIs, and so on.

What Ralph Grabowski Thinks

Graebert now boasts the singular distinction of having the same CAD system that runs on Android, Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. They are not, however, unique in having a CAD system running on Android, as some commentators mistakenly declared last week.

But the CAD part of their announcement is not the important part, because finger-based tablets (those without styli) are cumbersome for inputting and editing CAD drawings. I think that maybe Graebert saw that IMSI/Design had the right idea in developing TurboSite as a semi-automatic data inputter. And so Graebert sees that wonderful opportunity of unique-to-mobile add-ons that distinguish it from the less-than-full-CAD offerings from Autodesk and IMSI/Design.

Graebert has one key advantage over nearly all other competitors: they have a decade's worth of experience fitting CAD systems into tiny workspaces. I've seen their CAD software running on 5" Windows CE pocket computers, recording data from laser measuring devices (over Bluetooth) and from users. This company knows how to squeeze bytes into limited RAM.

Mobile is a big market, and so far no CAD vendor has monetized it to its potential. Apple's App Store policies drove the price of apps down to free and 99 cents (which effectively is free), unfortunately, and so drove down customer expectation. Apple handicapped serious third-party developers working in serious verticals.

With the 5-10 million downloads of Autodesk's free AutoCAD 360 bulldozing all other DWG viewer and markup apps, some competitors told me they figure the mobileCAD market is dead: who can compete against a free DWG viewer from the source, Autodesk? But now Graebert has figured out the key to unlocking competition by offering the full CAD deal - we hope.

About the Author

ralph Ralph Grabowski, TenLinks senior editor, is one of the leading CAD journalists and authors, with over a 100 books and many hundreds of articles. His upFront.eZine may be the industry’s longest running newsletter. Ralph holds a civil engineering degree. More…

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