3D Design 

Message - Re: Market Share

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Posted by  Kevin Matthews on September 24, 1999 at 23:17:46:

In Reply to:  Re: Market Share posted by gary veasy on September 24, 1999 at 18:05:23:

My 2¢ : I think MiniCAD has bigger market share than PowerCADD largely because they've spent a huge amount on marketing (made possible by substantial outside investment and becoming a publicly traded company), together with heavy discounting. Also, most users don't get the chance to really heavily use two brands of CAD software in the same time frame, so it is surprisingly hard for users to buy the best, even when buying the best is their goal more than price.

In the case of MiniCAD, the weak 3D module is enough for many users to think they're getting the equivalent of both PowerCADD and DesignWorkshop all at once, which greatly magnifies the discount effect of their pricing. Once a user has gone down that path, it's hard for them to ever encounter an experience that would change their mind. In time then it is natural for these users to develop a firm belief in the path they're on, so whether or not it is the best path, many will come to think it is.

This effect of accidental user experience means that taking an OK product and marketing the heck out of it can often beat out a superior product marketed more realistically. Hey, it works for Bill! The creators of MiniCAD have consistently gone for growth through heavy marketing, while the creators of PowerCADD have gone for a stable company based on a quality product for people who can tell the difference.

Happily there are enough users who can see past the marketing glare so companies like Engineered Software and Artifice can do what we love, doing our best to carry the timeless old traditions of beautiful, powerful tools forward into this digital era. These are people who are willing to experiment and to analyze, willing to work a little harder in the beginning so they can work better forever after.

The stock market (which owns MiniCAD) really doesn't care about elegant tools one way or the other. It doesn't care about little things like flaunting the antitrust laws, or maintaining a committment to niche developers with a great technology like QuickDraw 3D. "The Market" cares primarily about pure financial performance. Deep quality tends to require a much longer view than the quarterly reporting cycle. It's harder to achieve with a public company, despite the real financial benefits of capital liquidity.

By the way, to get my opinions about MiniCAD and PowerCADD, among other things I participated in an intensive year-long multi-firm coordinated CAD tools evaluation project as a co-leader of the BMUG CAD SIG, which was published in two issues of the inch-thick BMUG Newsletter. Our group included advocates of both PowerDraw and MiniCAD, and several other CAD apps as well. Later, I used MiniCAD 2D (aka Blueprint) as the primary software for 100 or so students in the University of Oregon computer-integrated design studios curriculum, mainly for price reasons. As a result of that year with MiniCAD, and the difficulties we encountered, I realized that I had to find a way to overcome the price barrier and change the curriculum to use PowerCADD instead. We got that worked out, made the change, and never looked back.

I have seen quite a few beautiful old hand tools that were essentially perfect. But I never seen a piece of software that couldn't be improved, DesignWorkshop, PowerCADD, and MiniCAD alike. Perfection is not the point. The point is : what are the best tools for the work you do? Not the cheapest, not the richest. Not the fastest or the slowest. A good tool metaphorically "fits into your hand" and then, once you've made a reasonable investment in getting the hang of it, disappears, becomes an extension of yourself, so there is only you and the work.

Tools like AutoCAD and SoftPlan will never get to that quality, ever, period. FormZ has a certain kind of technical excellence, but its creators are so focused on mathematical completeness that they're not even trying to achieve true functional elegance. MiniCAD is not really so far off, but for ten years their eye has been on growth, not deep quality.




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