We recently talked about the arrival of AutoCAD in its 25 years and the 6 Lessons Learned of its history. As Microstation is one of the CAD platforms with great competition in this market, and by the way one of the few that remain alive from a whole generation of systems that AutoCAD managed to overshadow (in sales) I think it is convenient to take a look at the history of Microstation.
Microstation was born two years before AutoCAD (1980), as a university project by the Bentley brothers, although initially the claim was not a computer program but an operating system that was capable of generating graphics, so it was closely linked to "a workstation work" that included not only a computer application but also equipment, at that time linked to Intergraph (now from Hellman & Friedman) from whom he partially separated a few years later.
But how does a university project of a group of engineering gurus get to become a company that in 2007 achieved 389 millions of dollars profit? (AutoDesk reported $ 1,800) let's see some of its lessons implemented
|FIRST LESSON||If there is no hardware that supports our idea, then let's build it|
|At this time Microstation is a system oriented to read interactive graphics assisted by computers (IGDS), these workstations of Intergraph that since 1969 had been developing high performance technologies.
Throughout this period AutoCAD was struggling from its 1.4 version to the 2.4, everything was DOS and had been popularized with the majority of commands until today known Divide, Explode, Extend, Measure, Offset, Rotate, Scale, Stretch, Trim.
|This is the first official version of Microstation under the dgn file format (DesiGN file).
This coincided with the launch of AutoCAD 2.6, at the time it started to acquire Softdesk and DataCAD ArchiCAD. However, Microstation was still an application that ran separately within PCs, under the well-known "ustation" that emulated a CAD application that was maintained until version V8 of the year 2000.
|SECOND LESSON||Find your best competitor and try to impress their customers. Microstation imports dwg data.|
|Microstation tries to gain the advantage to its competition with greater productivity, everything ran faster in Microstation and had no problems with Mac.
In this period AutoCAD R10 purchases the users of GenericCAD (850,000) and reaches one million users.
|Microstation implements most things that users would love: fences, references, clipping, level names, dwg translator.
In this time AutoCAD struggled to be compatible with Mac, most of these changes would be introduced until the 12 R1992 version, it was obvious, Microstation was winning in innovation but it was a small application that important companies were adopting.
|Microstation integrates rasters handling in binary form, line styles and sizing.
In this period AutoCAD released its version R13, for windows and fails to be compatible with UNIX and Mac.
|THIRD LESSON||If you are not the greatest, then try to be the best.|
|Microstation launches version 5.5, working in 32 bits in the era of windows95, Accudraw tools (snaps), dialog windows, execution of multiple files and smartlines are introduced. This was the last version compatible with Mac and Linux.
In this period AutoCAD R13 still in 16 bits decides not to work more for Mac until the year 2000, it buys companies to specialize lines of Architecture and Civil Engineering.
|Microstation launches its 5.7 version with Office2007-style color and border-like icons, this was one of the versions that many continued to use for many years, introduced power selector and some functionality to work on the Internet that AutoCAD would implement until the year 2000 .
In this period AutoCAD launches R14 and the LT “light” versions appear to compete in prices with DataCAD and MiniCAD, AutoCAD owns the market, it was the years of Windows 98.
|QUARTER LESSON||Do not modify interoperability much, or your users will hate you.|
|Microstation launches its 7.0 version, emphasizing Java development and some of QuickvisionGL, previously operated with Basic and MDL; This version of files called Dgn V7 was the last one based on the IDGS that was used by 20 years, from the version 8 the IEEE-754 format was used.
In this period AtuoCAD 2000 (R15) had made a great impression, it owned the CAD market and wanted the user to leave the command line aside. Years when Windows 2000 would revolutionize the use of the mouse, AutoCAD fights for prices with AutoCAD LT and maintains little change until the 2002 version.
|QUINTA LESSON||If your competition is too big, try to enter their own turf. Microstation V8 reads native dwg.|
|With the launch of Microstation V8, the aim is not to "look weird" by integrating 64-bit compatibility, reading and editing dwg natively, digital signature of plans, historical archive and reduction of limits in levels, undo, file sizes. MicrostationV8 seeks to improve what AutoCAD does best, such as handling layouts when entering models, snaps (accusnap) functionality. Even with all these changes, Microstation works under “ustation”, which keeps it in that strange way of not affecting RAM memory, therefore greater productivity.
It also integrates VBA programming, and standardizes its bizarre way of controlling working units.
At this time, AutoCAD integrates the dwf and CADstandard formats, although the cost is to stop supporting users prior to AutoCAD 2000. The AutoCAD functionality seeks that many commands go from the text bar to windows.
|Microstation seeks to continue reading dwg CADstandard files and implements multiple-snaps and PDF creation.
In this time AutoCAD 2005 (R17) implements many improvements in the interface of popup windows, such as dynamic blocks, tables and the sizing becomes friendly.
|XNUMXth week LESSON||Well, what's wrong with looking like the competition?|
|Microstation XM (version 8.9) is rebuilt from scratch (supposed), previously it came from a Clipper language, now it is developed in .NET infrastructure trying not to "look weird" so that it no longer works as a subsystem (ustation), although manages to maintain its productivity capacity without killing RAM. XM tries to keep the V8 look and feel, improving the features “because they've loved it” and integrates PDF external references, element templates, Pantone and Ral color management and improves the look in some resemblance to AutoCAD.
Bentley released Microstation XM as a "provisional" version, promising for the year 2008 a platform that has been kept under great expectation, at one time called "Mozart", also "Athens", everything is still a big secret.
At this time AutoCAD 2007 improves rendering capabilities, and for version 2008 you can import dgn files. They improve some things that were always complicated (dimensioning and printing) and improve the ability to work with other “non-cad” programs.
It is clear that the competition between AutoCAD and Microstation has been unfair for 15 years in a certain sense; While AutoCAD is the giant of CAD platforms, Microstation managed to sustain itself without making many acquisitions or changing its format, but competing strongly in its field: geo-engineering. What happens is that in these times, companies that compete at this level not only depend on the technical but on the international behavior of the stock markets and things that are difficult to visualize in the long term.
Both companies (AutoDesk and Bentley) Have different strategies to operate and sell, finally in different proportions has worked.
There is something worth admiring about Microstation, and it is the loyalty it achieves with its users, similar to what happens with Mac. Evangelizing a Microstation user to speak ill of their system is very difficult, the same happens with users of AutoCAD although in practice both have the two tools installed ... and possibly both are hacked :).
This competition takes 25 years, how much this can be sustained is a matter of time, and time in technology
Can be two years.
Update: In 2011 has been published a more updated article of this, which summarizes The history of AutoCAD and Microstation.