May 28, 2003

Commercial CAD/CAM for Linux?

- by Carl Brown -

I recently returned from my annual pilgramage to the Eastec 'Advanced Productivity Exposition'
trade show in Springfield MA, billed as 'The
East Coast's Largest Annual Manufacturing Event.' Every year since 1999, I have made the rounds there, asking all the CAD/CAM
vendors at the show the same simple question: "Do you have any plans for a
Linux version?" The answer has always been an unequivocal "No." The excuses
varied, but not the policies.

Don't hold your breath waiting for any of the 'big boys' to jump. One Autocad rep said, "In five years, maybe.
And then only if Linux has a visible 30% share of the corporate desktop, which
I don't see happening."

Solidworks and many others were developed under Windows using all of Microsofts'
best portability reduction enhancements. These companies believe that they
would have to throw everything out and start over to create non-Windows versions.
Because of this, they are at least as locked in to Microsoft as their customers
are. They are scared of Linux, but they try to brush it off as a "fad." One
smaller vendor said that they would wait for one of the 'big boys' to move

Even companies that started on Unix dropped the platform completely years
ago and (claim to) have no feasible way to resurrect that branch of code for
Linux. Thinking that the BSD core of OS X might lure some development
back into the *nix direction, I asked about it specifically. Gibbs had a Mac version, but it was dropped
two or three years ago and they have no plans to develop for OS X. In fact,
the OS X situation is no better than Linux in this area. If you want CAD/CAM
software, it's still Windows or nothing. It's as simple as that.

This year, however, marked an important first. One CAD/CAM software representative
did not say "No." He said, "If I asked the developers how long it would take
to have a Linux version ready, they would say two months." It seems that
these developers have been doing all their work under Linux for some time,
and the Windows version is essentially a port. The only thing they are waiting
for is demand. He told me that I wasn't the only person who had asked him
about a  Linux version at the show. If you've been waiting for a commercial
3D CAD/CAM package to become available for Linux, don't miss this opportunity
to help prod Weber Systems into being
the first to market. They are a relatively small company, so it wouldn't
take many potential sales to get them going in the right direction fast.


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