Back in Prague
Alright, here we are in Prague, just waiting for the annual Open Design Alliance conference to begin. This is my fourth time in the city, and I am starting to feel like a local. Even the occasional tourist mistakes me for a local, asking for directions to such and such.
TIP: When visiting Prague, the best thing to do is wander down side alleys to avoid the hordes of tourist groups that now plug up the pedestrian-only streets of the old city. Admire the beautiful buildings and scenes on the nearly-empty back streets, get yourself lost by taking random turns, and then use Google Maps to find your way back again.
About 130 are expected at the 1.5-day conference this year. ODA president Neil Peterson tells me there was a flurry of additional attendees in the last few weeks, forcing him to find a larger meeting room at the hotel.
The Rise of the Clones
This comes as no surprise to me. As some people worry about Autodesk losing its way, customers are looking for alternatives to being locked into subscription-only, (eventually) cloud-only environment that's indifferent to their actual, real-world needs. Competitors to Autodesk large and small depend on the ODA to provide the transition away from Autodesk software -- whether with DWG and RVT files, or with APIs and proxies.
The ODA has become the Microsoft of the CAD world. Most software relies on APIs provided by Microsoft and Apple to make new software development easier. Using these APIs means programmers have a lot less work to do. They don't need to write the code that draws a dialog box or saves data to a file; Microsoft and Apple have already done that for them.
In the same way, the ODA provides APIs to CAD vendors, and the programmers have less work to do. If you CAD software exports models to 3D PDF, opens point clouds, or edits proxy objects, then you probably have the ODA to thank.
Pilgrimage to Prague
And so it is that the competitors to Autodesk come each year to Prague to find out what the ODA has developed this year, for them to add to their CAD programs next year.
An aspect to this conference that I have not seen at any other is that attendees can talk one-on-one with the ODA's programming team -- solve programming problems, work through a bug, or suggest a new feature. All of day 2 is devoted to this one-on-one time.
As the ODA grows in importance, the groups that want to represent their services grows. And so this one-day conference has become a 1.5-day, with a couple sessions for the second day from third-parties who license their code to ODA members at a reduced price.
The conference begins at 9:30am European Central Time (12:30 midnight Pacific time), and I look forward to reporting on it for you.