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A cool new toy, and glimpses into several business phenomena

AutoCAD 2007 road show comes to town

by Eric Jackson

Yes, it was just another sales presentation, at first glance one of the sort to which The Panama News gets lots of invitations but rarely attends. But the AutoCAD 2007 presentation, by Autodesk and its associate Hewlett-Packard, was interesting on several counts:

·        AutoCAD is the world standard for computer assisted design, but back in the 90s its latest versions were kept back from the Latin American market, to the extent that distributors here claimed that architects or engineers who bought up-to-date AutoCAD programs in the USA and brought them down here to use were doing so illegally;

·        Despite offensives by prosecutors and the Business Software Alliance, most software used by businesses in Panama is still pirated;

·        With the possibility of major new design contracts and subcontracts if the Alemán Zubieta Plan to expand the Panama Canal being approved, architects and engineers are very concerned about their competitiveness, one aspect of which is the power of the computing tools a company has; and

·        Any glimpse of cutting edge technology is also a look into emerging economic trends.

The event attracted a crowd of hundreds, mainly civil engineers and builders but also a large contingent of architects. I didn’t see any other journalists I recognized and it seemed that the people putting on the event were surprised to actually see one of the journalists who had been invited to actually attend. This was by and large not a group of men in business suits, but rather men and women wearing the clothes one might expect them to wear while supervising on a construction site. There were a lot of young adults who at a glance fit the “computer nerd” or other stereotypes of their generation.

The presentation, part of the Latin American “Accelerate Your Ideas Tour 2007,” had an impressive product to show. This reporter has never used AutoCAD and isn’t in a line of business that would require it, but was nevertheless impressed by the things that can be done with the new software. Things that used to require the labor of several people --- some to make the blueprints which direct construction work, some to make the drawings to show to customers, some to do transparencies and cutaways, some to do the cost estimates of the work proposed --- can quickly be done by one person on one computer.

It’s not just a matter of better two-dimensional views that can be printed, but movable three-dimensional graphics that can be explored on a computer monitor. According to Autodesk presenter Juan Carlos Alfonso, the new AutoCAD lets an architect or engineer make his or her potential client “completely understand the project with a three-dimensional design.” That has to be frightening to those using the old program and have to compete with those working on the new one. It also ought to be of concern to younger professionals trying to get their breaks in competitive fields, because in effect it means that there will be fewer jobs per project in the future.

Then there was one part of the demonstration that may be of concern to professionals in other fields. The ease with which a large room in a large office building might be furnished, with design and costs arranged with a few clicks and drags of a mouse, was quite impressive. But the example was the automated design and budgeting of Dilbert cubicles!

AutoCAD 2007 will not be distributed by easily pirated CDs, but rather by online subscriptions. It was put by the Autodesk people as a way for customers to automatically get upgrades as they come so as to always be at the state of the science. That may be, but it’s also an anti-piracy strategy and a most profitable marketing tool if it works.

The new approach is also a recognition that Latin America is a crucial market that Autodesk can’t leave to potential competitors by discriminatory licensing that leaves the less developed countries behind. The company’s Oscar Silvosa noted that its sales are growing faster in Latin America than in the industrialized countries, particularly in Panama. He added that canal expansion work could greatly increase sales.

 

Also in this section:
Teacher contract talks get to crunch time
AutoCAD 2007: a glimpse of economic reality through a very cool new toy

HSBC buys Banistmo

Five Megaport bidders

Protecting yourself from the Kidnap Express

Business & Economy Briefs

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