Remember when access to the latest and greatest technology typically happened on the job? Most of us wouldn’t dream of shelling out big bucks for the turbo-charged workstation that could run all of our design tools, let alone justify the expense of buying a smartphone just so we could tinker on the Web or catch emails on the fly. We’d wait for our company to issue us a corporate-sanctioned device, and we’d play by the company’s rules just to have access.
What a difference a couple of years can make. The steady stream of usability advances and cost-effective pricing models have opened the floodgates. High-end tools like tablets, graphics-laden laptops, and sexy smartphones are now a staple for a growing number of consumers, who are buying this stuff on their own dime and now want to use it on the job. The trend, referred to as the “consumerization of IT,” is driving huge changes in the way companies buy and support technology gear. But beyond that, it’s having a significant impact on what users -- be they business users or engineers -- expect from the productivity tools and applications they use every day on the job.
What I’m referring to is a growing expectation about how software should work. With turnkey smartphone apps and tablet devices a staple of everyday life, consumers are expecting the same level of utility and usability from their business tools. Contributing editor Jon Titus refers to this in a recent post in which he says user interfaces for products must be easy to navigate and more intuitive. Traditional business applications are starting to take a page from this philosophy, and we’re starting to see similar movement in the traditional CAD and design tool space.
Here’s a case in point, albeit a small one: Maide’s new CadRemote app for the iPhone and iPod touch essentially helps transform traditional CAD applications and optimize them for collaborative design review sessions. Most CAD platforms have added collaborative capabilities over the years, typically in the genre of CAD -- meaning robust and unwieldy. What Maide has delivered with CadRemote, and what I think we are starting to see from a variety of mobile design tool apps, is a simple, intuitive capability accessible just like the zillions of other apps we’re starting to use on our phones. These apps are zeroing in on one simple benefit: facilitating sharing and collaboration of a CAD model with peers on the device you're comfortable with and use extensively in everyday life.