Autodesk's "Manufacturing 2010 Products Webinar" just concluded a few minutes ago; the one hour webcast serves as the official party line on what software changes are slated for release to the Industrial Design community (among others). In Autodesk's case, this mostly means Alias and its close kin Sketchbook Pro and Showcase, but a few notable things are going on with Inventor as well. Here's the stuff Core readers are probably curious to know:
1. Alias for the Mac - Yes. It's true, and it's official. According to product line manager Thomas Heermann, they've been building a Mac version for about a year and a half "when [Apple] started shipping really good hardware", and expect to ship it along with the new Windows version in early April. It's a native build, and will have all the function of the Windows version, though we're withholding judgement on whether this constitutes a slam dunk until we actually get a look at the thing in action -- there are far too many examples of crappy cross-platform translations out there for us to get excited, though we'd be shocked if things weren't level after two or three more releases (see Adobe, for example, in the other direction). It'll be interesting to watch the horse race that breaks out in a few months as Alias and Rhino jockey for dominance in the newly opened Mac surfacing market: Alias has more high-end clout, and is the first there with a fully-reatured release, but McNeel's been beta testing it forever, and stands to have a more integrated "Mac-like" product up when they finally make it official.
2. Realistic Pricing - Realizing, perhaps, that a large and growing fraction of their user base work as freelancers or in small shops with shallow pockets, Autodesk is dropping the price of the most basic version to $4000, which seems to be the magic number upon which many high-end CAD packages are converging (except you, Rhino). The product line, by the way, has re-embraced the Alias name, so that DesignStudio, AutoStudio, etc are now Alias Design, Alias Surface, and Alias Automotive. Note that if you're a car designer, you're probably working for a big company for whom the US$65,000 on Alias Automotive is not as big a concern as the tanking market and the striking assembly line workers.
3. Alias + Inventor Collaboration - Autodesk is really pushing the pairing of these two packages, painting a very sunny picture of the ID folks passing their highly sexy suface models over to engineering, who detail and fillet the things in Inventor, all in a seamless and frictionless manner. The tacit acknowledgement that filleting in Alias is and always will be a chore is probably a good thing, and Autodesk promises that the exchange has "great round trip capability": changes can be made to the surface model, then pushed into the related Inventor model where the details update without having to start over again. Sounds a little too good to be true, but the video we shot at AU in December gives us reason to be less skeptical.
4. Inventor as Hub Application - Alias isn't the only product whose interoperability with Inventor got touted. Architecturally-oriented packages Revit and AutoCAD feature improved interchange too -- they're even going to start bundling AutoCAD LT together with Inventor LT -- in a way that places Inventor very much at the center of the broader workflow.
5. Deep Focus on Plastic Part Design - Nearly ten minutes of the webcast concerned integrated tools for Inventor to aid in mold design, gate location, etc., and a newly simplifyied line of moldflow analysis tools called...wait for it....Moldflow. The aim is to allow users with little expertise in plastics to generate tool designs themselves, a prospect that makes Develop3D's Al Dean a bit nervous, and us as well.
6. Much Cheaper Rendering Software - Perhaps in response to the roar of approval for Bunkspeed's latest products, the Showcase rendering package has gotten some nice new features (integrated raytracing, custom HDRI environments, tools for comparing design variants) and a nice price cut, from US$5000 to US$1000.
Update: Autodesk has made the entire webcast available for public viewing, so if you want to hear it from the horse's mouth in Nightly News fashion, check the link. Bonus points for guessing which two questions at the end were mine.