One week has passed since news broke of the acquisition of SketchUp by Trimble. I have spent many hours reading, analyzing, and why not say, having fun with the speculation. Many stories are full of testosterone and some are already up in arms. Actually I have a more optimistic vision that many and I want to share with you my personal opinion.
Trimble is no stranger to 3D modeling. Obviously it is looking to expand their existing market. Their experience in the construction industry can add value to an interesting future development of SketchUp.
On the other hand SketchUp has many valuable assets that I do not believe that Trimble will overlook.
• SketchUp has become popular because it clearly sets apart from any CAD system. It is intuitive, easy to learn, inexpensive (or free) and can be applied to any number of disciplines from geo-modeling to film making.
• It relies on the 3D Warehouse, the on-line repository to which the community contribute selflessly. It is invaluable to count with any type of libraries; even more is the ability to collaborate and share 3D models with anyone in the world or allow companies to show products of any kind.
• Access to a free community of developers that expands the work of the development team. Many plugins have allowed SketchUp to acquire complex abilities in modeling, BIM and renderings.
• A development team that has been at the forefront for many years. It was confirmed that most of the SketchUp team has agreed to continue working with Trimble. Knowing that the team that has brought up Sketchup to these days is still standing, brings peace of mind.
• However, what also makes SketchUp a unique product is not technology, but its community. It has 30 million users who are real passionate fans and are proud of the program.
With all these assets why would Trimble only make an engineering program for engineers? Trimble is a company that has grown steadily. It would make sense to shrink the purchased assets? They have expressed that they wish to carry SketchUp to the next level maintaining its existing functionality. The fact that changes will be incorporated, it does not necessarily mean it will remain exclusive of certain disciplines. As John Bacus –project manager of Sketchup- said “But this doesn’t mean SketchUp will be any less useful for folks outside that industry – one of the greatest things about SketchUp is its horizontal “3D for Everyone” appeal. We’ll never change that”. Any system is capable of being applied to a variety of needs beyond the initial concept for which it was created.
Google's mission worked in modeling the earth, irrelevant factor for interior designers; but this direction did not prevent the program could be used in many different other disciplines.
News reports indicate that Trimble and Google will combine their forces to keep the 3D Warehouse. This means that the visualization of models will continue to be present even for those who work in interior design. Therefore the contribution of the end-users will continue to live and current.
Paradoxically, what makes some people feel fear is the uncertainty of running a new roadmap with no maps or GPS (Trimble is involved in mapping and GPS technology)
For me, the value of Trimble in engineering and construction combined with the ability of Sketchup to display projects from early stage, its concept of non-CAD together with the 3D Warehouse and the great mass of users, have the potential to cover the AEC market like no other company has done so far. Anyway, we will have to wait. For now I don’t believe we will see dramatic changes during 2012; at least they don’t expect revenues coming from this acquisition.