Is BricsCAD A Real Alternative to AutoCAD?

Many AutoCAD users perceive that Autodesk’s move to subscription based licensing will increase their long term costs. Certainly, at a list price of $4,195, many organizations have difficulty justifying additional licenses for occasional users.

Products competitive to AutoCAD have come and gone over the years. None appear to have the critical functionality and the supporting infrastructure to cause established AutoCAD users to risk the switch.

Here we review the history of IntelliCAD, the first real alternative to AutoCAD; explore the reasons why Visio did not pursue the opportunity; and take a hard look at BricsCAD – the rising AutoCAD competitor that offers 100% dwg compatibility and more functionality for $680 – less than half of the AutoCAD rental price.

Bottom Line

With a smaller footprint, faster performance, native LISP support and a compelling price point, BricsCAD deserves serious consideration for complementary CAD seats in any organization.  With an eco-system of 3rd party developers and resellers, it may be positioned to take a real run at the mainstream AutoCAD installed base.

Seen enough already? Below are the quick links:

Are Users Upset With The New Subscription Based Pricing Model?

Having worked with Autodesk as a reseller, developer, employee and consultant, I have heard murmurs of discontent over pricing for as long as I can remember.  The decibel level is now peaking:

  • The Autodesk product mix, particularly with the suites, is confusing and perceived to be expensive
  • Unwanted bundles with high subscription costs have raised the ire of many users
  • Autodesk has eliminated the software upgrade option effective February 1, 2015. Users not on subscription must purchase a new license.
  • Effective February 2016, software can only be purchased on subscription
  • Many users are ready to consider alternatives.

It is difficult to quantitatively define the level of dissatisfaction with Autodesk, however, there are some interesting thoughts that can be derived from market analysts.  Bad Fundamentals, Stiff Competition Expensive Subscription Service are Major Headwinds For Autodesk  provides some insight.

What Options Do Users Have?

Competition to AutoCAD has come and gone over the years.  Perhaps the most serious threat was IntelliCAD – a product secretly developed by Softdesk  and then sold to Visio when Softdesk was acquired by Autodesk in 1996. Visio launched the product in 1997 with great expectations only to see disappointing sales.  An internal analysis by Ronald Prepchuk  identified the key issues Visio was facing:

What are the needs of our targeted market?

  • Engineers need ease of use and compatibility with .DWG
  • Drafters need speed
  • Manufacturers (and everyone else) need accuracy

We have failed to meet these requirements.

  • Ease-of-use is achieved with Visio Technical, but not .DWG compatibility or speed.
  • IntelliCAD achieves .DWG compatibility but lacks ease-of-use, speed, and accuracy.
  • Although IntelliCAD’s database has internal accuracy, its UI and API introduce inaccuracies by producing unexpected or erroneous results.

Even a single error in an unrelated area can keep people from using it because they won’t be able to trust it. When the original Pentium was discovered to produce errors in rare circumstances Intel was forced to offer replacements to all owners in order to maintain faith in the product. Their cost of manufacturing replacements far exceeds ours, but their credibility is priceless.

“The market Visio should want for IntelliCAD is not those who can’t afford anything else (AutoCAD) but instead those who can afford AutoCAD but have determined that IntelliCAD will meet their needs.”

Shortly after this analysis, Visio turned the IntelliCAD technology over to the IntelliCAD Technology Consortium (ITC).  IntelliCAD became the foundation technology for many application developers and others who re-branded the technology to launch solutions to compete with Autodesk’s products such as Civil 3D. Carlson Software is a prime example.

There are a number of free or low cost CAD packages available. Many are introductory packages with the option to upgrade.  None have a really significant market share that threatens the AutoCAD market dominance.

BricsCAD – A New Breed of AutoCAD Competition

We have learned from Visio’s experience with IntelliCAD and other low cost AutoCAD competitors, that to compete effectively against AutoCAD, the solution:

  1. Must be 100% DWG compatible
  2. Must be easy to use
  3. Must have equivalent functionality to AutoCAD
  4. Must directly support or have an easy way to port existing applications to a new platform
  5. Must have low training/transition costs
  6. Must have a “community” of developers and resellers focused on mutual success
  7. Must embrace web based technology to make sales, support and accounting simple
  8. Must target those who can afford AutoCAD but are convinced that a lower cost product will meet their needs

Based on our research, BricsCAD from Bricsys is one, if not the only, vendor to address all of the above. Their marketing message is right on:

“How do you address the needs of your cost conscious users and enterprises, tired of the exorbitant pricing and stringent licensing policies of the incumbent CAD vendors, but still requiring full-fledged CAD software including the many APIs required to run Third Party solutions? Searching for a channel-friendly CAD vendor offering a full suite of dwg CAD software at a compelling price? Look no further, welcome to the BricsCAD platform!”

Let’s see how BricsCAD stacks up to our requirements:

  1. Must be 100% DWG compatible
    1. A founding member of the Open Design Alliance
  2. Must be easy to use
    1. Similar interface to AutoCAD
    2. Same commands for command line users
  3. Must have equivalent functionality to AutoCAD
    1. Compare features here
  4. Must directly support or have an easy way to port applications
    1. LISP is supported directly (critical to many organizations)
    2. VBA is supported directly
    3. Simple recompile of ADS applications
  5. Must have low training/transition costs
    1. Free BricsCAD for AutoCAD User Guide
    2. Online BricsCAD TV
  6. Must have a “community” of developers and resellers focused on mutual success
    1. Introduction can be found here.
  7. Must embrace web based solutions to make sales, support and accounting simple
    1. An integral part of the Bricsys story
    2. Great web based partner support with their on-line CRM
  8. Must target those who can afford AutoCAD but are convinced that a lower cost product will meet their needs
    1. With a 3 tiered pricing program of
      1. $550 Classic 2D with LISP
      2. $680 Pro – 3D modeling, rendering and all API’s
      3. $1020 Platinum adds 3D constraints, design intent recognition, assembly modeling, deformable modeling and BIM

So BricsCAD must be considered a legitimate competitor to AutoCAD.  Time will tell if they can build the momentum to be a serious threat.

About Lance Maidlow

A professional engineer and solution architect with direct experience in a wide range of industries including GIS, water, sewer, power, transportation and oil and gas. Currently focusing on the optimization of design software and field data collection for utilities, local governments and their supporting organizations.
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