Autodesk targets students designers with reborn AutoCAD for Mac

Citing the growing popularity of Mac computers, Autodesk said it has begun shipping a version of its popular 2D/3D design tool AutoCAD 2011 for Apple's Mac OS X operating system.

"We've seen a real inflection in the adoption of the Mac, especially in the last five years," said Mark Pareskeva, Autodesk's EMEA vice president. "The Mac - especially the MacBook - is now a preferred platform in education too, and education is very important to us. Today's students are tomorrow's designers."

He said that Mac usage has also climbed in areas such as architecture, creative design and media, and pointed out that several other Autodesk products, such as Maya, Smoke and Sketchbook Pro, are already available on Mac. However, the last version of AutoCAD to run on a Mac was release 12, almost 20 years ago.

It has been possible to run more recent releases of AutoCAD on a Mac using either a PC emulator, or by dual-booting an Intel-based Mac into Windows. "But there are specific user interface features of the Mac, and we needed to support those," Paraskevar said, adding that Autodesk has put "several years of significant development work into understanding how a Mac user would view a CAD product," including working with around 5000 beta users.

The result "has a Mac-focused workflow, but it is the same AutoCAD - the functions are the same and the keyboard commands are the same," he added. He said that as well as existing Mac users who want a native version of AutoCAD, there are also current AutoCAD users who want to use more Macs.

One such is retail interior design specialist Styles&Wood, which was on the beta programme. "There's been growing interest in having Apple Macs in the business to allow us to further diversify the wide range of tools that we already use for design work," said Andrew Handley, CAD development manager at Styles&Wood. "However, as AutoCAD is such an important tool within the business, having AutoCAD for Mac really was the clincher for us to make that move."

As well as making public a 30-day free trial of AutoCAD for Mac, Paraskevar said that students and educators would be offered free three-year licenses for the software.

Last month, Autodesk also released an app for Apple's iPod, iPhone and iPad, allowing them to view and annotate drawings via the company's AutoCAD WS file sharing service. "In its first week, we saw 250,000 downloads of our mobile app," Paraskevar said. "The iPad in particular is now becoming the mobile tool of choice for executives."

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