July 25, 2005
ESRI UC Conference 2005 Preview
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each GIS Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the GIS industry, GIS product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by GISCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!


In June, Autodesk announced RealDWG 2006 technology for application development. According to Mark Strassman, senior director of marketing for Autodesk's Platform Technology division, developers have requested this product Autodesk RealDWG 2006 (formerly ObjectDBX) which enables third-party application providers to develop and market products that read and write design data formats AutoCAD DWG and DXF.


Autodesk RealDWG 2006 is fully compatible with Autodesk's products, including AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor Series, Autodesk Revit Building, Autodesk Architectural Desktop, Autodesk Civil 3D, Autodesk Map 3D and AutoCAD LT. DWG is the base format of AutoCAD which began with version 1 20 years ago.


Since then, all Autodesk products have supported DWG internal technology and third parties have begun to develop ways to read and write DWG files in order to enhance the base products. "In the past we had something called ObjectDBX which is actually the software libraries - components of AutoCAD that we actually use in all our applications at AutoCAD, and they read and write the same type quality DWG format. We've licensed that to a handful of developers," explained Strassman. "However, the few developers who used it were more on a one-off basis, and prices were high. We charged a per unit licensing fee based on how many units our customers shipped."


Yet during that time, other third party developers who were not selected by Autodesk to use ObjectDBX or who didn't want to pay the cost, continued to use other products to read and write DWG files to build their applications.


In a conversation with Evan Yares, president of the Open Design Alliance, an organization that sells OpenDWG, a set of code libraries also designed to allow read/write of DWG files, one reason why the Open Design Alliance is in existence today is because there was never any certainty that people would be able to get access to libraries [from Autodesk] that would allow them to read and write DWG files. "To the extent that Autodesk opens up their policies and makes them more consistent, and it benefits users, that's a great thing," said Yares All CAD software companies, including Autodesk, have been invited to join the Open Design Alliance.


"The problem as we see it is, we change the file format every so many years to allow us to put new features in the DWG format to support new features in our applications, and these third parties are working to try to get their applications compatible with DWG," Strassman stated. "Our customers were actually upset with the quality of their DWG in third party applications because they were getting application errors and accuracy errors, so we've found that customers are having bad experiences when DWG is written by third party applications."


Autodesk RealDWG 2006 is actually a series of code libraries that have been reworked from ObjectDBX, with new licensing terms, rebranded and repackaged. As part of that, if companies choose to license the libraries they will become members of the Autodesk Developer Network for the remainder of the year, a free promotion for base entry level. "This gives them a large amount of support," said Strassman. "One of the components of licensing RealDWG is an ongoing maintenance of a sort."


The initial fee is $5,000 for the first year and the customer is able to get any upgrades and any updates that Autodesk makes to the Toolkit for that first year. This includes the right to distribute one application using Autodesk RealDWG and any software updates in that time frame. The distribution license is an annual fee of USD$2,500.


"Now, any developer who wants to develop an application to read and write DWG that are 100 percent DWG compatible can do so," claimed Strassman. "We're doing this because there are billions of DWG files out there. We recognize that customers exchange information with products that aren't Autodesk products and we want our customers who are using Autodesk products and working with third party products to have the best possible experience working with the DWG file format and with our product. In order to have our customers interoperate with third party applications, we need to make that genuine DWG format available."


"A bunch of different companies out there provide DWG read/write capability mainly by reverse engineering the DWG file format," Strassman noted. "We get a lot of errors from customers who say their AutoCAD is crashing or they're losing information. We look at the files and see that they aren't from Autodesk applications, they are from third party applications. By providing these libraries we think we will provide a better experience for our customers."


Strassman did say that the libraries are the same type of thing as what the Open Design Alliance offers in their OpenDWG libraries. Yares agreed that Autodesk's updating of their ObjectDBX is "very similar to what our libraries are. They updated it so it works with the latest versions of .NET development tools. Of course the Open Design Alliance has had libraries that work with the latest versions of .NET for quite a long time."


Although we don't know quite what Autodesk's intentions are other than to provide what their customers want, there are some interesting parallel points about RealDWG and OpenDWG. 1) They renamed the ObjectDBX technology "RealDWG" which does seem parallel to the name "OpenDWG," the Open Design Alliance's standard for DWG file formats. 2) Autodesk commented on the accuracy and errors in third party solutions using DWG products other than Autodesk's, which according to Yares, has no basis in fact. "We have 2,000 companies that use this stuff in products that are critical to homeland security and infrastructure, and we respond to any problems there are with accuracy. Only with the version 2006
have they [Autodesk] added capabilities similar to ours."


3) Autodesk's pricing structure RealDWG 2006 is exactly the same as that of the Open Design Alliance's standing membership: $5K the first year, $2500 the year afterwards. "The only difference is that they restrict people to one product and we allow people to use as many as they want to. They provide one version under Windows, we provide multiple versions and we provide DGN as well," said Yares.


Making RealDWG available to more developers has been a long time in coming, but Strassman said that "For our customers sake it's time to allow these tools to be used more widely. We have made it easier to integrate than anything out there."




Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements


ESRI announced a newly formed business relationship with MRO Software, leading provider of strategic asset and service management solutions. This partnership will result in a first-of-its-kind embedding of ArcGIS components into MRO Software's Maximo Enterprise Suite (MXES), providing users with a geographic framework for improved decision support and work planning.


eSpatial and Laser-Scan are pleased to announce the signing of a technology alliance. The official announcement is to be made at Laser-Scan's 16th Annual User and Partner Conference.


Together with a joint customer in the UK, this alliance provides a framework for Laser-Scan & eSpatial to work in partnership to support the enterprise wide deployment of Data Capture and Cleaning tools built using iSMART(tm) and Radius Topology(tm) . In partnership, it is now possible to unlock the power of Oracle Spatial through eSpatial's iSMART middle-tier deployment environment, underpinned by Laser-Scan's Database level data cleaning platform.


Laser-Scan and Star Informatic are pleased to announce that their partnership has now been extended to cover the visualization of AdV Model generalized data (AdV = Working Committee of the Surveying Authorities of the States of the Federal Republic of Germany). The proof of concept was shown at the ICC Conference (held 9th -16th July 2005 in La Coruña, Spain), where it has generated significant interest. This collaboration builds on the successful implementation of this solution at Institut Géographique National, France for their current cartographic flowlines. The demonstration featured datasets from Landesvermessungsamt Baden-Württemberg. This institute currently
uses both Laser-Scan generalization tools and Star Informatic's cartographic publishing solution Mercator.


Orion Technology, provider of award-winning web-GIS software and integration services, and i-TEN Associates, Inc. a leading GIS services and products provider announced that they have signed a partnership agreement. Under this agreement i-TEN Associates will include OnPoint, Orion's web-GIS Product suite to their current product offering, combining custom-designed functionality with out-of-the-box pricing to complement their GIS Solutions.


You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.


To read more news, click here.



-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.


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