Twilight of the desktop tops the Tech Soft 3D agenda

It wasn’t the free microbrew that drew 60 developers to the annual pre-COFES customer meeting; it was the opportunity to see new 3D technology for the cloud era.

The Tech Soft 3D home office is in Bend, Oregon, a mecca for microbrewing. Bringing a custom batch of beer to the COFES Tech Soft 3D meeting has become an annual tradition.

By all account Tech Soft 3D is doing well. It has 350 customers who look to it for foundational 3D graphics technology they incorporate into their products. It is now the reseller for AutoCAD OEM technology from Autodesk and 3D PDF technology from Adobe. Plus it is the creator of HOOPS CAD interoperability technology, still popular 13 years after its debut. Revenue so far this year is 20% above what it was last year, and 2011 was a pretty good year for the private company which does not release financial statements.

But Tech Soft 3D CEO Ron Fritz says the company has a problem. As he explained today at the company’s annual customer meeting at COFES, “It is getting harder and harder to support our customers … there are so many platforms to support today; the matrix of development environments is complex, and growing.” But ever the imp, Fritz immediately adds, “When things get difficult they also get interesting.”

Today Tech Soft 3D is working hard to deliver cloud-based 3D technology their customers can use to build specialized apps. As one developer in the room commented, “Every new customer asks us if we have an iPad application.” Fritz and Tech Soft 3D co-founder Yanick Fluhmann shared screen shots and a short live demo of 3D PDF technology running as a cloud-based iPad app, using Microsoft Azure as the cloud platform. “We don’t have a clue what we are doing here,” deadpanned Fritz. “We need you to tell us what we need to give you.”

“The twilight of the desktop phase is upon us,” said Fluhmann. Developers of sophisticated applications for manufacturing, construction and other technical applications need to tell Tech Soft 3D exactly what they need to build mobile apps. One developer there, who has the largest aerospace companies among its users, told of seeing printed images of 3D assemblies taped up everywhere surrounding the assembly of a passenger jet. “If ever there was a use case for a mobile app, there it is.”

“You are seeing this technology while the paint is still wet,” said Fritz, who saw the software in use for the first time only yesterday. “We are sure the result will be more than the sum of its parts, but we need you to tell us what some of those parts should be. … We want to help you unlock CAD data in new and interesting ways.”