Interview With Aaron Kelley On DraftSight

I just got off the phone with the Director of DraftSight Aaron Kelley. We chatted about some issues involving and surrounding DraftSight and what are Dassault Systeme’s intentions with it. The conversation went something like this:

Deelip: What is the main purpose of DraftSight? Why give it away for free?

Aaron: That’s a good question. With DraftSight we are basically trying to reach out to the community of 2D CAD users and give them a chance to drive the direction of the product. DraftSight was born out of the needs of our existing customer base. 6 years ago we released DWGeditor to solve the problems of our SolidWorks customers who had made the move from AutoCAD and who still wanted to use their DWG files. Later we realized that our CATIA customers are facing the same problem. We found that we needed greater flexibility with the product and more control with respect to its direction. We thought of many ways of doing it, even open source. But we realized that our customers really do not want C++ source code. All they need is a 2D CAD product that solves their problems. With DraftSight, we hope to create some sort of an analogy to open source by letting the community decide which way the product should head without giving them the hassle of maintaining it.

Deelip: Are you going to offer similar open products for your native file formats as well?

Aaron: There are no plans for that. The 3D side of our business model is working fine and we feel no need to interfere with it.

Deelip: Is DraftSight meant to be some kind of a revenue source for Dassault Systemes? If yes, how?

Aaron: Yes, DraftSight will be a revenue source in the sense that we will sell technical support and API extensions.

Deelip: What kind of API extensions will you offer. The DraftSight features page mentions that the product supports the LISP API. But that does not seem to be working. At least not at the command prompt. Has that already been implemented?

Aaron: No, the LISP API is not currently available in the Beta that can be downloaded today. But we will offer it in due course of time along with other API’s like C++, COM and .NET.

Deelip: DraftSight is not a free perpetual license. Rather it is a free annual license which needs to be activated every year. Why is that?

Aaron: Well, we basically want to know whether people are using the product.

Deelip: I ask because some may be worried that one day you may turn the tap off, if you know what I mean.

Aaron: No, we do not have any intention of doing that.

Deelip: What were the reasons for selecting ARES for the platform for DraftSight? Actually I am surprised that you did not select IntelliCAD 7 since you are already an ITC member and already have access to the beta of the new IntelliCAD 7. Wasn’t IntelliCAD 7 Beta good enough?

Aaron: Well, I really do not want to get into the technical aspects of this. But I will say that we have a wonderful partnership with Graebert and would like to see it grow.

Deelip: Now that you have DraftSight, will SolidWorks continue to offer SolidWorks 2D Editor?

Aaron: Yes, we will continue to offer our customers SolidWorks 2D Editor. We have not planned any end of life for it. But we are pretty sure that the way to the future for us is via the ARES platform. We are basically trying to offer people a no cost to low cost 2D CAD solution so that when they decide to move to 3D they will hopefully give us a call.

Deelip: So if I understand this correctly, Dassault Systemes is really not get into the 2D CAD market. You are basically opening the doors for people in the 2D world who wish to move to 3D.

Aaron: No, we are very much in the 2D CAD market. We are now offering a professional 2D CAD system that is quite capable in its own right.

Deelip: Wow! So does this mean that you are actually going to take on AutoCAD and its clones?

Aaron: Our goal is to help 2D users solve their problems. If it involves them moving from their current 2D CAD product to DraftSight then so be it. But we are not going all out to specifically target 2D CAD users. Lets just say that if I have to convince an AutoCAD user to buy any of our products, I would recommend SolidWorks or CATIA, not DraftSight.

So there you have it. Dassault Systemes and SolidWorks have announced their entry into the 2D CAD market. Now this is going to get very interesting.

  • Brian Hall

    Should be very interesting. Good interview Deelip. I think that's a great strategy for Dassault. “Free” always (at least) raises eyebrows. It's still an up hill battle, though. AutoCAD has so much inertia in the market that it's even hard for Autodesk to get users to switch to a “pure” 3D platform.

    The .NET API; will that be a pure .NET library (or libraries) or a COM PIA wrapper?

  • http://www.solidsmack.com Josh M

    Something else I just got from a VAR…

    It will be free, but customers can also purchase a customer service contract for technical support. The support is being handled directly and not thru the VAR channel.

    very interesting.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    I guess the same will go with the API access as well. I don't think VAR's are capable of handling that.

  • http://www.rickyjordan.com Ricky Jordan

    The Commercial Licensing is the API & Tech Support Bundled and will be sold by all DS Channels. All the details are in my post from this morning.

    Ricky

  • Daniel

    So am I to read that IC7 is so bad they can't give it away?

    Actually, I think nixing the open source was not a matter of consumers not wanting C++, but a matter of not being able to give out ITC or ODA source code.

    Lastly the issue of support, how can they sell support a platform that's not theirs? or will they just forward the requests Graebert and charge for it?

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    Daniel,

    Aaron did not want to comment on IntelliCAD 7. And for good reason since his company is still an ITC member. I find this whole thing more of an insult to the ITC because here is a member that has gone out to shop for technology that it should have already had for free, or as part of its membership to the organization.

    Yeah, I too didn’t buy that open source argument because of the source code restriction of the Graebert and ODA. But I think Aaron was making the point about the nature of open source where the community decides the direction of the product. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

    I hear that their resellers will not be handling support. It will be handled directly by SolidWorks. Whether they will ultimately outsource it to Graebert, I don’t know.

  • Randall Newton

    Dassault is making DraftSight users renew their licenses annually probably because they pay Graebert a fee based on the number of users.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    I highly doubt it. Stuff like this is usually licensed for a fixed annual sum.

    I believe the annual activation ritual is so that they can turn the tap off. Remember Pro/DESKTOP from PTC?

  • Aaron Kelly

    The intention for annual activation is to know if our users are still using DraftSight. There is no intention of shutting the product off at any time. If this is a legitimate fear from our users going forward, perhaps we should find a better, non-intrusive way to interact with our users.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    In my opinion, the best way to determine whether users are using your software is automatic updates. If the product continues to be free and is constantly updated there is no reason why users will not regularly update as well. Just my $0.02.

  • Waldo120

    Aaron, I certainly understand the need to see who’s using it, but if that is your true intention rather then making it a mandatory activation, just have it send a signal when opened once a year to your site, or auto-update.

    Otherwise the fear of turning this into a paid product at some random point in the future will be in the back of everyone’s minds and stop them from relying on it and getting use to it; just to have the rug pulled out from under them.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    I agree with you 100%

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    I agree with you 100%

  • http://miletter.blogspot.com R. Paul Waddington

    I understand Draftsight is already sending data ‘back to base’. This might be a good opportunity Aaron to answer the questions I asked, relating to this topic, in three un-answered emails.

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  • Anton

    Agree with all above. But would like to say as an Autocad user for 20 years, this is the best 2d freebie I have ever seen by far. I was using this with ease within minutes. If you know Autocad or want to know it, this is an excellent way forward.

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