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Interview: A Dozen Questions with AutoCAD WS's Tal Weiss ...

It certainly won’t come as a surprise to any of our long time readers to find out that AutoCAD WS has been a big hit around the dojo. Now that we can tote our AutoCAD around with us on our Android OS devices, we are completely enamored. So when it came time to seek out another great person for a Dozen Questions post we naturally went looking for Tal Weiss, the Senior Software Development Manager for AutoCAD WS!

We looked high. Then we looked low. Then the word on the street took us hither and fro. We even used our Crocodile Hunter accent once or twice, but in the end, we were victorious in tracking down this elusive subject!

AutoCAD WS is a proven hit on iOS, a featured app on the Android Marketplace and a huge success in its browser form! With over ONE MILLION downloads since the introduction of AutoCAD WS we think that Tal and his team have plenty to be proud of.

Kung Fu Drafter: What is your current position and responsibilities within Autodesk?
Tal Weiss: I am the Sr. Software Development Manager for AutoCAD WS. I manage the AutoCAD WS group, which designs and builds the WS Web, mobile and desktop product line.

Tal Weiss, AutoCAD WS Senior Development Manager ...KFD: Where did the idea for an online version of AutoCAD come from and who championed it?
TW: The idea originated back in our start-up days, by my VisualTao co-founder Iris Shoor. This was around 2006 and Iris was working as architect in an architectural practice. Google docs has just come out and she was playing around with it a lot and was fairly excited by the ability to open a document from any computer and to collaborate with others online and thought to herself “why not AutoCAD?” She approached me with the idea and we decided to found a company (VisualTao) around that which was acquired by Autodesk in 2009.

KFD: How many people make up the AutoCAD WS development team?
TW: We are close to 30 people including product managers, designers, developers and QA engineers located in Tel-Aviv, Israel.

KFD: How many are programmers and how many are usability or interface designers?
TW: There are about 15 developers, 2 product designers and one product manager.

KFD: How long did it take to bring AutoCAD WS to market as an official product?
TW: We worked on VisualTao for 3 years before we sold the company to Autodesk. At about that time we had the WS web app pretty much ready to go. It was launched on Autodesk Labs 3 months after the acquisition as Project Butterfly. From there on to get it to the 1.0 release state (including a new mobile app) took another 9 months. This was back in September so I think by now we’ve been working on this technology for close to 5 years.

KFD: Do you think that there is a difference in how users plan to use AutoCAD WS on phones versus tablets?
TW: Tablets have a larger form factor and therefore provide more drawing real-estate which makes drawing and markup work easier. With phones, you get better mobility as people usually have their phones with them most of the time, making it ideal for viewing and very simple modifications and markups. Having said that, I am always surprised by the amount of work getting done by users on their phones.

KFD: How many downloads have there been of AutoCAD WS since its release for the iOS platform?
TW: About 1.2 million downloads spread pretty much equally across the globe.

Members of the AutoCAD WS team ...KFD: What sparked the decision to translate AutoCAD WS to the Android platform and was it connected with Google’s development of Honeycomb?
TW: One of the pillars of AutoCAD WS is ubiquity – our desire to be where our users are. It’s needless to state the huge adoption the Android platform has seen over the last year, so it was a natural decision for us to go there. Honeycomb in itself and the overall Android move toward tablets was just another strong indicator for us that it’s another place we want to be.

KFD: Are you concerned about the constant update and/or fragmentation of mobile platforms?
TW: To a degree, it is natural to see fragmentation in such as an emerging market (mobile) as all the vendors are working hard on getting more adoption and with the hardware progressing so fast. The place that concerns me is that as an application vendor, considerable amounts of time are spent on building the same features on different platforms (iOS and Android for example). This detracts from the time we have to build new features and make performance improvements to the software, which is what our users are really interested in.

KFD: Does AutoCAD WS have open API’s for the development of third party products?
TW: Not right now, but it’s something we’re working very hard on, so stay tuned for some news about this soon on our blog.

KFD: What is next for you and the AutoCAD WS development team?
TW: We’ve got some pretty cool things up our sleeve. From the product perspective, we’ll be looking to add more viewing and drawing functionality to both our web and mobile apps in the coming months to help make our users even more productive. We’ve got something pretty big we’re working on we’re right now and which we’re looking to hopefully announce in the next AU (Autodesk University).

KFD: If you and your team were sea monkeys, would you work in an underwater cave or a little plastic castle and why?
TW: That’s a very good question and we will definitely add it to the product FAQ :-). Seriously speaking, definitely the underwater cave. It seems so much more natural and secure.

We agree with Tal, any time you can inject a bit of nature and security into the workplace we think it’s a win. In fact, we suspect that is why there was a Bat Cave and not a Bat Parking Garage. But that is just us.

Download AutoCAD WS or visit the blog ...If you are one of the growing numbers of smartphone owners then be sure to check out AutoCAD WS. Have comments or questions for Tal, leave us a comment below and we will work our best Kung Fu to get them to Tal and his team.

It certainly seems as if Tal and his team are unstoppable when it comes to pleasing the mobile CAD community. After reading this interview, we know that our readers are going to be anxious to learn what Tal has up his sleeve for AU 2011. Maybe something involving 3D or augmented reality? Or, possibly, Tal and his team have been reading our Kung Fu diary and have invented a way to send eggrolls through the internet …

- KFD -

Image credits: Autodesk

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