Still a Windows world for now, but Macs have made pretty strong inroads in the education market, particularly among college kids who are often carting off a new Apple laptop to school. With a new generation of engineers brought up on Macs and with programming issues less of a hardship as you well point out, it's not that much of a stretch to think that they'll want their design tools to run on their platform of choice. As an avid Mac user myself, I can't even imagine using another platform.
Back in the 80's and 90's, supporting the Mac platform meant having an entirely separate code-base for your application(s). Coding for the Motorla 68040 processors, and later the IBM PowerPC processors was too much trouble for the small slice of the market that the Macs had, and dealing with Apple was always trouble as they were so controlling. The costs were too high, and companies couldn't justify dual-code-development.
When 'Jobs switched the Mac platform over to a Unix based OS, and then jumped to the x86 platform of the Intel processors, suddenly the differences between the code-base became a lot less, and the barrier to entry for the market share was a lot lower. There's still a lot of differences between a Unix OS and Windows, but at least the processor base code/binaries are talking the same language.
With Apple making a comeback on market penetration, it's starting to make sense for companies to dual-path their code. Programming tools have matured, and the base of available programming labor has opened up with access to the off-shoring countries.
Of course, that has to be managed very closely as the SolidWorks guys found out when their out-sourcing partner sold their base code on the internet!!
But don't kid yourselves, the Mac is still a bare fraction of the installed base of PC's out there, it's still a Windows world... for now...
The Mac was all but the abandoned step child by Autodesk, which basically killed off its Mac line in the mid-80s to just focus on the PC. Given Apple's resurgence and based on continuing demand by its customers, Autodesk launched a version of AutoCAD for the Mac last year and followed up this year with a more well-rounded product line for the Apple platform. I'm not aware of any real differences in terms of performance. My guess is the development team optimizes the software for the individual capabilities and advancements of each platform accordingly.
The real interesting question is whether or not Autodesk follows up with Mac versions of its other core products, including its flagship 3D CAD tool, Inventor. Officials there are being pretty close to the vest about making that commitment. They'll only say they are evaluating it. My guess is if customers ask for their favorite Autodesk products on the Mac platform, the company is going to comply.
Beth -- Are there performance differences between AutoDAD products on Mac versus PC? Does AutoCAD favor one over the other in terms of releasing products and offering service? Is one a stepchild while ther other is the main show? Many years ago, graphics companies preferred MAC, even while Mac was a smaller slice of the market.
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