AutoCad to make comeback on Macs and iPad

Autodesk abandons its 15-year-old Windows-only policy with plans for a new AutoCad for Macs and a free version for iOS devices such as iPad and iPhone
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor on

Autodesk is preparing to release versions of its AutoCad 3D engineering and design software for Mac OS X and iOS, fifteen years after dropping support for non-Windows operating systems.

The software maker will roll out its Apple-compatible AutoCad software for the Mac and iOS operating systems before the end of October, a company spokesman told ZDNet UK.

"The release of AutoCad for Mac marks the return of professional design and engineering software to the Mac platform and an important convergence of power and design," Amar Hanspal, senior vice president in Autodesk's platform solutions and emerging business division, said in a statement announcing the move on Tuesday.

The Mac version of the design software will support many of the features found in Mac OS X, such as graphical browsing of design files with Cover Flow and support for multi-touch gestures on compatible Macs. Apple Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad support has also been included to incorporate pan and zoom features.

Files created in earlier versions of AutoCad will work without any problems under the new Mac version, eliminating the need to convert previously created data, according to Autodesk.

In the past, AutoCad supported a variety of operating systems, but in 1994 Autodesk decided to discontinue development of all non-Windows versions in order to concentrate on "significant investment in the ongoing development and innovation of AutoCad," the company spokesman said.

"However, Autodesk customers have adopted the Mac in greater numbers over the past five years, as Apple has released increasingly powerful computers ...Autodesk has also developed expertise and experience creating software for the Mac through our current offering of native Mac software products... All of this helped facilitate the development of AutoCAD for Mac over the past 18 months," added the spokesman.

In addition, the company is launching an iOS version of AutoCad — known as AutoCad WS — for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices. The software will allow users to edit and share AutoCad files across multiple devices.

"Apple is thrilled that Autodesk is bringing AutoCad back to the Mac" said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, in the Autodesk statement. "The AutoCad WS app is a bold new idea."

Randy Rhodes, research director at Gartner, said that the move reflected a recognition by software vendors that people are becoming used to accessing applications on devices other than laptops and desktops.

 "Autodesk's decision to re-introduce AutoCad on the Mac and iOS4 devices reflects a response to consumerisation trends. Information workers expect to get work done anywhere — on varying platforms — and have increasing expectations for mobility support.  Even AutoCAD users," Rhodes said.

Another example of the shift is ESRI, which said in June that its ArcGis 10 and its Business Analyst application will be supported on iOS, Rhodes said.

When they arrive, the iPad/iPhone version will be available free of charge via the Apple App Store, while the Mac OS X build will cost the same as a Windows-licensed version at $4,425 (£2,875) with subscription or $3,975 without subscription.

Autodesk will also be offering customers the option of transferring their licenses to Mac (or vice versa, if required in future) for a "small fee", according to the spokesman.

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