Not only is it back, it's back with a vengeance.
Less than a year after announcing a version of AutoCAD for the Mac, Autodesk has reinvigorated its Mac product line with a trio of offerings built from the ground up to support the Mac OS X Lion operating system.
At one time, like most vendors, Autodesk offered both Mac and PC versions of its software, but it discontinued the Mac versions in 1994 when the Apple platform fell out of favor with enterprises and even with smaller businesses.
With Apple now firmly ensconced not just as a rock star consumer device company, but as a purveyor of in-demand laptops, Autodesk last year responded to what it said was an outcry from its customers to support its flagship CAD product family on the Mac platform. "We're bringing you the product you asked for -- a rock-solid version of AutoCAD built specifically for the Lion operating system," said Amar Hanspal, Autodesk's senior vice president of platform solutions, at the official rollout, which was done via live streaming video on Facebook.
The star of the Web 2.0 event that Hanspal was referring to is AutoCAD 2012 for Mac, an update to what Autodesk rolled out last year complete with new associative array functionality for reducing rework, a revamped user interface, and new productivity tools. Another capability Hanspal played up was a new licensing option that lets users opt for network licensing, which provides more flexibility in maximizing the software across geographically dispersed teams.
AutoCAD 2012 for the Mac sports the 2D and 3D design tools and 3D visualization and rendering functionality found in the 2012 release for Windows.
In addition to the upgrade of its big guns, Autodesk released for the first time on the Apple platform a native Lion OS version of AutoCAD LT and AutoCAD WS. AutoCAD LT for the Mac is a lower-cost, lighter-weight version of the CAD tool, which contains powerful tools for drafting and modeling, but is priced at $899.99 instead of the several-thousand-dollar price tag of traditional AutoCAD software. AutoCAD WS for the Mac is a browser-based tool that lets users view and collaborate on DWG files through the Mac interface, and it is available for free.
In an interesting twist, Autodesk is offering both AutoCAD WS for the Mac and AutoCAD LT for the Mac exclusively through the Mac App Store. Amy Bunszel, Autodesk's vice president of AutoCAD, says the decision to offer the programs on the Mac App Store just reflects where this class of customers wants to buy its products. "This gives us a way to reach customers that we wouldn't normally reach through our channels," she told me.