CAD Central1 Oct, 2007 By: Kenneth Wong
New Machines from HP; Autodesk Goes Shopping; Your Own Private BIM Kit
New Machines from HP
In September, HP publicly unveiled several new systems that were previewed to the media at SIGGRAPH 2007. The lineup includes two new workstations: the HP xw4550 (starting at $800, available in October) and HP xw4600 (starting at $900, available in November). Their entry-level pricing makes them both good considerations for budget-conscious CAD users. The xw4550 is powered by AMD Opteron 1000 Series processors, augmented with professional-class 2D and 3D graphics cards from NVIDIA and AMD. The xw4600 comes with a choice of Intel Pentium Dual-Core 3, Intel Core 2 Duo, Intel Core 2 Quad, or Intel Extreme dual- and quad-core processors. The new Intel X38 Express chipset and 2D and 3D NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards complete the setup. Both systems are Energy Star–compliant.
Another product, the HP Compaq dc7800 Ultra-slim Desktop PC, is described as the "zero-footprint PC" for being one of the smallest, energy-efficient systems (starting at $695, available since September). According to HP, it has "a 46% smaller form factor than the previous models. The PC comes in Convertible Minitower and Small Form Factor models, with the latest Intel Q35 chipset and Intel vPro 10 Processor Technology."
The new HP Compaq dc7800 is touted as a "zero-footprint PC" for its compactness.
Autodesk Goes Shopping
In the last week of August, when word got out that Autodesk had secured a line of credit from Citibank for $250 million (in Autodesk's SEC filing on August 23), several media sources began speculating about how the company might spend that cash. Some asked: Could the AutoCAD giant be planning to snatch up The Rand Group, a value-added reseller that has become an attractive acquisition target? (See "Quarter-Billion Line of Credit — What For?" WorldCAD Access, August 25, 2007.)
As it turned out, Autodesk was planning to acquire something, just not The Rand Group. On August 27, the company bought the California-based PlassoTech, which develops and markets analysis and simulation software for the mechanical market. It is an understandable acquisition, as the two nearest midrange competitors to Autodesk Inventor come with integrated analysis packages of their own: COSMOSWorks for SolidWorks and Femap for Solid Edge (UGS Velocity Series). Inventor often is associated with ANSYS, a mechanical simulation and analysis software from ANSYS. The financial terms of the PlassoTech acquisition were not disclosed, but it's safe to conclude ANSYS's price tag might have been much higher than PlassoTech's. ANSYS is better known, more established, and the company is operating profitably. According to ANSYS's quarterly financials released on August 2, it expects revenues in the range of $367–$371 million for the fiscal year ending in December 2007.
Amy Bunzel, director of the Autodesk Inventor product line, told Cadalyst contributing editor Jeffrey Rowe, "The acquisition was consistent with rounding out the digital prototyping strategy with its simulation aspects and effect on digital prototyping" ("Autodesk Pushes Ahead with DP," MCAD Tech News 219, September 6, 2007).
As with a variety of technology acquisitions, the trickiest part for the PlassoTech purchase will be managing the post-acquisition relationships. PlassoTech is available also for Inventor's rivals, including SolidWorks, Solid Edge, and Pro/E. "Although Autodesk will continue to support integrations of PlassoTech technology with other platforms . . . the company will be winding this business down, so moving forward it can focus exclusively on the Inventor implementation," Rowe reported.
As for ANSYS's role after the Plasso-Tech buyout, Bunzel informed Rowe that "ANSYS will remain a strategic partner and will continue to provide complementary CAE products for Inventor, such as nonlinear, high-end FEA; CFD; and multiphysics."
Your Own Private BIM Kit
Graphisoft wants you to study BIM from the privacy of your own home, cubicle, café, or whatever site strikes your fancy. But more importantly, the company wants you to consider its ArchiCAD software for your BIM project. To entice you, the company is offering a free downloadable BIM Experience Kit (http://experiencebim.com), which consists of a 30-day, fully functional (but limited) version of ArchiCAD 11, a two-hour tutorial of BIM, and an online assessment test.
The announcement reads, "Innovative technology allows users to convert files to be compatible with commercial versions of ArchiCAD upon purchase." In other words, once you buy the commercial version, you can simply continue working on the groundwork you've completed with the trial version that comes with the kit.
Kenneth Wong is a Cadalyst contributing editor who explores the innovative use of technology.