Alright, don’t start in on me. I’ve got a lot of misgivings about this software, just based on its name. First, Autodesk (or AutoCAD) to me means low-rent, underpowered software that runs best when its bootlegged. The name Autodesk also recalls the traumatic experience I had as an early adopter of Mechanical Desktop 1.1. 360 in this case means cloud. So there isn’t much to like with 2/3 of the name. But Fusion sounds good to me. It sounds like they are merging technology, which seems right to me right now. I really like how Siemens has merged History and Direct into Synchronous. If Autodesk is copying from Siemens, and who could blame them for working from a great idea, then this Fusion 360 might not be what I typically expect from Autodesk.
First, you know they’re only marketing people, but you might expect them to get the priorities right. The huge font went to the cloud. The cloud should be a footnote in this story instead of a huge distraction from the real story. I think this is part where Autodesk is really missing it. Cloud isn’t the big draw that CEOs and marketing types think it is. If I were trying to sell CAD in the cloud, the first thing I’d mention was that it takes advantage of some great modeling tools. I wouldn’t even mention the cloud. CAD people don’t want the cloud, they don’t care about it. They care about modeling tools.
There has been a lot of controversy recently around Autodesk cloud announcements by Autodesk CEO and some other top level types. You can read more about this on Blog Nauseam, and Ralph Grabowski’s site, both places that tend to focus on Autodesk products. The discussion has centered around whether or not Carl Bass said/believes that all Autodesk tools are going to be cloud tools EXCLUSIVELY. It seems they’ve backed off of that, and everything will be available on the cloud, but there will also be unspecified desktop tools. This dance seems more than a little familiar. A CEO comes out with a brash and possibly stupid claim, and then everyone else is left scrambling either not saying anything or trying to do damage control to regain control of the message. All you need is one crazy, ambiguous statement. Just ask Jeff Ray, now picking cotton in some software backwater.
Anyway, to me, the most important stuff I’ve read about Autodesk Fusion 360 has been from Evan Yares. The first thing I like about what Evan says is that he’s realistic. There are limits to cloud capabilities, mostly imposed by connection bandwidth, and that there is much more to this product than just an internet connection.
The first thing that you have to notice with this is that Fusion 360 is a mechanical modeler with T-Splines built in. This is what SolidWorks could have been. So just to be clear, you might design a conveyor system, or you might design something organic without pulling your hair out. This is the system I’ve been asking for that combines NURBS and mesh-style modeling. If this interests you, I’d really recommend reading Evan’s two part article.
As much as it pains me to praise Autodesk, this is a product that looks interesting because of the modeling technology. To me, it wouldn’t be an entirely bad thing if a more reputable vendor were to offer something similar (like if Siemens bought Geomagic/Sensable). If we could only convince them somehow to shut up about the damn cloud.
Fusion 360 isn’t available yet (are all these cloud apps going to be released on the same day?), but you can sign up for beta, which isn’t out yet either. Autodesk’s incomplete cloud app that isn’t delivered yet sounds like Dassault’s scaled down “conceptual modeler” that isn’t delivered yet. Despite Mr. Bass’ best efforts, Autodesk has managed to create less of a PR disaster than Dassault, and they have offered some details.
So, this is one of those things that I’m watching with great interest. I’ve put my name in for beta, I’d love to get my hands on this. For all of Dassault’s bluster about bringing its customers new technology first, they are going to be dead last in the post-history era among the big 4. Even the deaf and blind PTC has an offering in this space.