Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Autodesk’s Design Applications Get Social

When you hear people say that the enterprise is getting social and collaborative, and if you pay attention to the burgeoning industry that aims to serve that need, you think quickly about companies like Jive, Microsoft’s newest acquisition Yammer, or maybe’s Chatter. All are pretty general in their approach.

But there no reason that the ability to collaborate and give quick feedback on a project can’t apply to specialized industries, and actually make a difference within specialized applications. Case in point: Autodesk is set to announce a batch of new features in its AutoCAD WS software that bring a Facebook-like activity feed into the arcane world of computer-assisted design software.

About a year ago I noted the release of AutoCAD for devices running Google’s Android mobile operating systems, which came after a successful launch on Apple’s iOS. Today, the company says its AutoCAD 1.5 allows CAD designs to be seen and shared both in a regular Web browser and on those mobile devices. And a new feature it calls Design Feed makes it easy for people working on a project to comment on its different aspects and have that feedback show up in a Facebook-Timeline-style feed.

One interesting trick: If you’re trying to make a point clear, you can snap a photo of what you mean — say, different options for a door handle on the design drawings for a car — and “pin” them to specific areas within the drawings, just as you might do on Pinterest.

Another application has some added social features, too: Autodesk 360 Mobile is getting its own social feed, making a collaborative design review process easier.

And while it all sounds kind of arcane, make no mistake: This is some widely used software. AutoCAD has 10 million users, and the mobile applications on iOS and Android have been downloaded more than eight million times. And for that matter, Autodesk apps don’t do so badly on the Mac, either. I’m not a designer or architect, but numbers like that make me wonder what I’m missing.

(Image from this Autodesk site showing AutoCAD WS in action on an iPad.)

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik