by Fred Abler
Yesterday was a hugely exciting day in the SketchUp community. John Bacus announced a major reboot for the SketchUp team. They are leaving GOOGLE and being acquired by Trimble Navigation (TRMB).
This was a big relief for SketchUp watchers. We had been worried for weeks. Google recently told beta-testers that the next version would not be released. It had in fact been “postponed indefinitely”. Rumours were flying, and none of them appetizing.
Then, while signing up to follow FormFonts 3D on Twitter, I saw a tweet from John Bacus. “I’ll be in San Francisco with the family for a 3 week vacation, anyone know of fun things to do there?” it said. “Who the heck takes a three week vacation at Headquarters I thought?”
I confided in a few that I was now really worried – “Google may kill SketchUp and Layout, and pull John Bacus, Aidan, Bryce and others onto other “more important” Google projects!”. But luckily, my internal GPS was just ever-so-slightly off.
Trimble Navigation Inc. is just down the street from the Googleplex in Sunnyvale, CA. And I’m willing to wager that John spent more than a few days while “on vacation” at their offices. But the point of this post is – when it comes to positioning, close doesn’t count.
Thankfully, we were all wrong. Even those predicting SketchUp would soon be sold to Dassault!
Now it feels like the clock has been rolled back to the heady days of 2005. Everyone, including the SketchUp team, is genuinely excited… and we can’t wait to see what comes next!
As an architect, I couldn’t be happier to see SketchUp move to Trimble Navigation, a Silicon Valley company started 35 years ago as a provider of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) receivers. If you’re a surveyor or own a small boat or plane, you’ve known Trimble for years.
Over the decades Trimble has expanded aggressively into four core markets; Engineering and Construction, Field Solutions, Mobile Solutions, and Advanced Devices. Trimble now earns 55% of their $1.6 Billion in annual revenue from Engineering and Construction.
Lately, Trimble has been on a serious acquisition jag – buying companies both large and small (nine in 2011, and SketchUp is the 4th acquisition so far this year). Strategic acquisitions include companies as diverse as RFID provider ThingMagic, the BIM Brainiacs at TEKLA, and several laser scanning companies ( LIDAR).
—- the power of position-ing —-
Trimble currently has two unfair advantages. It controls initial-capture of what the military calls “mission critical” information (i.e. position). Furthermore, Trimble leverages this precise information-advantage from its natural market – Engineering and Construction.
(Warning: Purple Comment) So many companies have been trying to sell BIM to Architects instead of Constructors, and with such middling results. Trimble is not a company making this mistake. It will succeed organically by just ‘baking BIM into its product pipeline’. The’ Desk should be very scared…
Trimble’s acquisitions appear to all share a common strategic objective – to simultaneously expand_and_harden its ‘positioning pipeline’. It seems to me that Trimble’s meta-mission is to “own positioning” as an existential (constantly changing) attribute of all things.
—- @ Last! —-
Given Trimble’s brilliant.. positioning, it’s highly likely they intend to use SketchUp as the web-friendly super-glue that will hold all of their strategic acquisitions together. This would appear to be the perfect challenge for SketchUp.
At Last! Trimble is likely to take the advice long-given on SU BetaForums, to use the Ruby API and C++ SDK, to enable many different flavors of SketchUp. If true, this new product-line practice will enable SketchUp (and its partners) to finally reach full potential.
If SketchUp is near “cloud ready”…(a personal speculation), it could soon support a lightweight web client – or viewer. Trimble will likely accelerate development of SketchUp as a SAAS platform, internet-enabling their extended user workflow.
Given that SketchUp has 30 million registered users (sincere thanks to The Google), and that Trimble is likely to promote SketchUp_As_A_Platform (SKAAP?) – SketchUp may soon be in a position to actually deliver the BIM’plimentation others have only promised.
—- Hu-man Relationships —-
Finally, as founder of SketchUp’s first free 3D model library – ObjectiveNetworks in 2002 and FormFonts 3D (2005) – the world’s largest living library of professionally created 3D components (both forerunners of Google’s 3D Warehouse) – I can tell you, it’s been a rough decade living in the SketchUp Ecology.
My personal hope is Trimble is one of the few technology companies that actually values human relationships…business partners..and users great-and-small. It will be so nice not to mine ‘Tweets and Rumors’.. just for clues about SketchUp’s future!
In Short, SketchUp 3.0 is a major reboot! Trimble will @Last, give SketchUp the resources it deserves (including a new building), more staff and hopefully some autonomy – and very likely gain a THIRD unfair advantage in the bargain.
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