IMSI / Design (Private)
October 8, 2012 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
Reinventing CAD For The Mobile World
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – October 8, 2012
Mr. Farros: We make software for architects, designers, and contractors. We have a traditional CAD (Computer Aided Design) business which has 70% market share in traditional retail... it's the software that helps you build a house or office building or even something as simple as a kitchen remodel. We are also moving into a new area in AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction), which we call Mobile CAD. In our traditional business, we are one of the bigger players. In the mobile business, we feel like a startup.
CEOCFO: What is the most difficult part in translating from the standard CAD to Mobile CAD?
Mr. Farros: Everything. It shouldn't or can't be done. It's an age-old problem. A new platform comes along and traditional players -- especially those that built software specifically for the old platform -- especially those that are dominant on the old platform -- try to take what they are popular for today and move it to the new platform. I will say that's a totally natural thing to want to do. But it never works. It reminds me about the Macintosh way back when. You had all these character-based PC products trying to smush themselves onto the graphical Macintosh... it just did not translate. For well established companies, it's really difficult resisting the temptation to want to stay in the box, so to speak.
CEOCFO: Where are you in the process of the new applications?
Mr. Farros: It feels like we are within a quarter of starting to announce products that we've been working on for the last couple of years. We've been releasing bits and pieces of our new technology into the marketplace for the last year, though. For example, we released a very popular app called TurboViewer, which allows you to open a DWG or CAD file and view it lightning fast on an iPad, iPhone, or android device. Another app, TurboReview, lets you markup a DWG or CAD file lightning fast, too. Both of these, though, have desktop equivalents. What's going to happen next is we will start releasing AEC apps that don't have desktop equivalents. We think that will be a really big deal... pioneering a new market kind of stuff.
CEOCFO: How do you translate something as visual as CAD to an iPhone screen?
Mr. Farros: You have to be careful what you're trying to do. If you want to design the Empire State building on an iPhone, forget about it. The challenge is actually how to create new solutions that take advantage of the strengths of smart devices, like their portability, battery life, GPS, camera, gesture interface, and so on. For example, instead of designing the Empire State building, if I just want to do a site review of the building, now I'm loving my small screen and all day battery life. There are attributes that the new mobile devices have that really lend themselves to brand new solutions and that's why, as a business, we're so excited, we want to be first with these brand new solutions.
CEOCFO: Are you able to tell me any of the concepts or are they under wraps?
Mr. Farros: They are under wraps now but I'm trying to share as much as I can! The key thing is there are a handful of apps in our area which work on mobile devices, but we don't believe there's a truly new mobile solution yet, something that can't be done on a desktop.
CEOCFO: Do you feel that your customers are actively looking for the kind of mobile applications that you want to provide or will it be a nice surprise?
Mr. Farros: A surprise! No one is thinking the way we are, everybody just seems to be watching the old stuff get wedged onto the new platform and no one is really happy with the way that's going. Truth is we've already spoken to dozens of customers about what we're doing and we're pretty overwhelmed by the positive reaction.
You mentioned you had 70% of the CAD market?
CEOCFO: What are you doing better than your competition?
Mr. Farros: Sounds cliché but we don't rest on our laurels. We have a wonderful installed base of users and every year they expect something new and every year we are able to deliver new things to them. We pay attention to our customers and that is what drives us. We think we do that better than anyone in our space.
CEOCFO: What is the most unusual traditional product you are offering today?
Mr. Farros: We are a pretty traditional company, so we don't have anything too racy. We have some fun products, for example, we have a product called Renditioner that works with Sketchup, a conceptual modeler. SketchUp used to be owned by Google but they recently sold it to Trimble. Renditioner takes a relatively plain looking 3D SketchUp model and turns it into a thing of beauty, something that looks like a photograph of a real building. The renderings are so beautiful, people can't help but love that product.
CEOCFO: Do the people that are developing your software have that design background in addition to the technical?
Mr. Farros: Believe it or not, not design, but math. You may be a programmer but you have to be a programmer that knows math, especially all that geometry stuff we all learned in school and wondered if we'd ever use again. From a development perspective, precision design is all about math.
CEOCFO: Are you finding it difficult to find qualified people for your company?
Mr. Farros: Yes and no. On the traditional side of the house, we're fortunate enough with our position in the market and our name that we attract talent. On the mobile side, I would say it's a little bit more of a challenge, it's a new field and there are supply and demand issues. It's definitely easing, though.
CEOCFO: How is business?
Mr. Farros: We're happy and fortunate that our traditional business keeps moving along, though we're really anxious to release our new mobile products because we expect we'll have a very different profile in six to twelve months. Our industry is definitely affected, though, by housing, construction starts, business and consumer spending, that kind of thing. The international turmoil certainly hasn't been helpful to anyone in the CAD business.
CEOCFO: Are there countries in general where you would like a greater presence?
Mr. Farros: Sure, China for one. Overall, though, traditional CAD is a pretty mature industry, just like the market for word processing is big and mature. That's why we're so excited to be bringing something new to all markets.
CEOCFO: Why should people pay attention to IMSI Design?
Mr. Farros: We're working on some of the first truly new solutions that AEC will have seen in years... because of mobile, we wholeheartedly believe we are opening up a whole new frontier in the AEC world.
CEOCFO: These are exciting times for you!
We think so! We think we're tapping into something pretty special going
forward. The mobile numbers back it up. Early customer conversations back it
up. Mobile isn't a fad, it's going to completely change the way we all do
computing, including what all of those architects and contractors in the
world do on a daily basis.
We're working on some of the first truly new solutions that AEC will have seen in years... because of mobile, we wholeheartedly believe we are opening up a whole new frontier in the AEC world. - Royal Farros, IMSI/Design
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