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4 August 2001


Exclusive Interview: Future Nemetschek Product Direction

In this second part of our extensive interview with Sean Flaherty, CTO of Nemetschek North America, we delve into the future of the company a bit with new products yet to be announced, new strategies, the Web and thoughts about different technologies and their implications for CAD industry.

For news on the future of VectorWorks on Mac OS X, please see Part 1 of this two part interview special.

Sean Flaherty, CTO of Nemetschek North America

Anthony Frausto-Robledo, Editor of Architosh.com

What's Next with VectorWorks in 9.5?

AFR When are you planning the next major release of VectorWorks?

SF Version 9.5?

AFR Yes. When is your next big feature planned? What does your window look like there?

SF Uh,, (laughter). That's a tough question there. I think it may be too early to say.

AFR Ya, I may be getting ahead of you.

"Last year it seemed like every third booth was some sort of online collaboration site. And they were all gone this year." -- Sean Flaherty, CTO

SF We have been running around as a company and trying to figure that out. We have traditionally done 18 month releases and VectorWorks 9 was a 27 month release. And that is too long. It is really hard to say. We are going back and reevaluating what is the best way to get the latest technology in our customers' hands.

I think the CAD market is an interesting one because basically companies standardize on it as a platform like they do with an operating system. And changing the platform too often can be very disruptive. But at the same time there is a large push to continue to support new technologies. So for us we have these two forces pulling the schedule both ways.

So I think we will have a better idea later in the Fall about what are window really is.

AFR Can I ask you a few questions about your Web strategy?

SF Sure.

AFR You know you have Autocad out there -- very aggressive on the Web side, they just bought Buzzsaw.com, and so forth. Where is Nemetschek going with the Internet?

SF Well, it is good that you say Nemetschek there because this is going to be a group strategy from us...coming from Nemetschek AG. They have a web portal comparable to Buzzsaw called MyBau.com, which is primarily used in the European market, which for us is 30-40% of our business. In fact, we split the world by about 30% for Europe, 30% for Japan, and 30% for the United States and Canada together, and the other ten percent is split between companies like South America....and we have a growing user base in Australia too.

So for us this will help to have strategy there. I think the whole CAD community got really side tracked onto the project management sites.... [Web sites].

AFR True.

SF...that made all the news. And it's interesting...did you attend AEC?

AFR No, but I followed some of the announcements.

SF It's interesting because the shear absence of booths was remarkable. Last year it seemed like every third booth was some sort of online collaboration site. And they were all gone this year. And it was really only the diehard Buzzsaw's and Bricsnet's that are the ones that survived.

The direction we are looking for as a corporation is really first about 'how to get information up on the Web...and visible and viewable'. We have—and this will appear on our Web site in the next month or so—a viewer version of VectorWorks. [Editor's note: at the time this went up to the server Nemetschek had announced its new VW Viewer app.]

AFR So you can view files on the Web?

SF Right. You can open up, look at files, zoom around, and then print them.

AFR That's good news.

SF Yes, so this is good. So that is certainly going to be a big advantage because certainly any service bureau can download the viewer app and they will have a full plot ready version of VectorWorks.

You know anytime you go to DWG or any translation process there is always [some] loss. So we want to be able to have people post and pass around VectorWorks files directly. And to have a viewer means that you can go to some third-party, which isn't necessarily a VectorWorks user, and they can access the file. In fact, what a lot of our customers often need is when they are sending some VectorWorks files as DWG's to some Autocad user, that that user can use the viewer to open the VectorWorks file directly and compare it to the DWG export and verify that they got everything they needed.

So that is certainly going to take us forward there. I think the direction we are headed—and we are probably about five years away—is some Web-based component spec where Pella and Anderson can not just put up DWG representations of their windows but can actually have a component that you can click on a Web page and drop it into your CAD application.

There is a whole host of specs running around right now. And if you search on architecture and XML you will find a lot of information. I think that is where people are headed.

I think long term the people who can actually get manufacturers to put things up on the Web will actually have a real competitive advantage. And that's what we are working with NAG on right now—especially with the MyBau.com projects and a lot of the manufactures there—is to use their Web based component specification.

As far as further Web technologies I'm not sure I see a lot that are specific to CAD.

AFR What about 3D and things like Macromedia's newly announced Shockwave 3D format, things like that?

SF The streaming 3Ds?

AFR Yes, the newest streaming 3D technologies...like the Shockwave 3D format that people like Maya, Lightwave, Amapi and others are all getting very excited about?

SF I don't know. To be honest, I don't know if I have a strong opinion about that.


SF It's something—you know—where VRML was all the rage about six or seven years ago...and it's not really done a lot.

The formats like Shockwave are nice when you need to share small 3D drawings with somebody. But I am just not convinced that if you are working on a large 3D version of a house that you want to see it in a small, 'quickie' streamed 3D format.

I think when you are collaborating with someone on something you are going to want to have a full CAD system there to work with it. I think the redlining features you have with DWF are much more appealing to our customers.

AFR And so, what about your 3D technologies. If not to streaming format where are you taking them?

SF With VectorWorks 9 we rev'd our 3D engine. And we continue to rev our rendering technologies. Those are where we want to attack the 3D market. To take VectorWorks up to be the industry leading architectural modeling and rendering package.

AFR Sean, I think we need to wrap up now but I want to thank you for talking to Architosh about VectorWorks, its future and Mac OS X in our earlier part 1 interview. And all the detailed discussion on development issues related to OS X was wonderful and insightful. This conversation sheds a lot of light on what it is really like to move an application—especially one as large as yours—over to Apple's next-generational operating system.

SF You are welcome. Thank you for the opportunity. And we look forward to sharing more news about our company with Architosh in the future.

So that concludes our final part of a two-part exclusive interview with Nemetschek North America's (formerly Diehl Grahphisoft) Sean Flaherty, Chief Technology Officer. This is the second big interview with Sean and he has provided us, again, with much interesting insight into the Mac community and the heart of Apple as a company.

I hope you have enjoyed this interview and look forward to more like it in the future. -- AFR.

If you have any questions or comments for us about our features and interviews, or if you would like to be interviewed, please just send us a note.

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MWNY: Alias/Wavefront makes splash at Macworld! - [jul 22]

MWNY: VectorWorks demonstrated on Mac OS X - [jul 23]

MWNY: Shockwave takes on 3D, new partners sign on - [jul 22]

Keynote Predictions: Crystal Ball 2001 New York - [jul 18]

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Cool news coming out of WWDC-2001 - [may 22]

Summary of Apple Store Opening Action, Links - [may 19]

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VectorWorks helps student win International competition - [may 9]

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Architosh Forums: Multi-Prize Giveaway - [may 9]

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Visit the Architosh e-Bookstore!

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