Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Autodesk Is All Smiles With Its Mac Software Business

Since Apple reported such monstrously successful earnings earlier this week, the whole wide world has been parsing the company’s numbers and slapping their heads at the size of the iPhone and iPad sales, and what it all means for everyone else.

But Apple is still a consumer-focused personal computer company, and one trend I like to revisit is how Apple continues to grow its presence in business and professional settings.

Here’s a pretty good indicator: If you’re in the business of designing things like machines or buildings, there’s a chance you’re using software from Autodesk. Its latest mechanical design software, called Inventor Fusion, is used by mechanical engineers to design cars and planes and factory assembly lines. It’s heavy-duty software that’s currently available on Windows. A new trial version for the Mac has just recently come out is coming out soon.

While engineering software like this tended to be run on beefed-up Windows workstations during the last decade, the Mac has started to make serious inroads among engineers and designers, especially the younger ones, says Autodesk product manager Kevin Schneider. “The younger generation of engineers has grown up with computing expectations that are completely different,” he says. They used Macs at school, probably learned to edit photos and video in Photoshop and Final Cut Pro, so when they start using CAD and other software, naturally, they want it running on a Mac, too.

Autodesk makes four applications available on Apple’s App Store, and the results are pretty stunning. Those applications — Autocad LT, Autocad WS, Motion FX and Sketchbook Pro — have clocked up 2.2 million downloads via the App Store. That’s a lot for any software, and it’s a heck of a lot when you consider that these applications don’t come for free. Sketchbook Pro goes for $59.99; Autocad LT costs $899.99.

The number is even more impressive when you consider that Autodesk apps account for about 2 percent of total downloads on the App Store. Late last year, Apple announced that its store had broken the 100-million-download mark, generating 100,000 downloads a day, and making it the biggest software download site in the world.

It’s just another indication that the Mac is still making inroads against Windows in the workplace. A new Forrester Research survey of 3,350 IT decision makers finds that 46 percent of all firms in North America and Europe issued Macs to their employees in 2011; that figure was up by more than half since 2009.


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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo