Originally code-named “Phoenix” the IntelliCAD project came to life when Visio Corporation acquired certain assets of Boomerang Technology Inc., a privately held developer of Autodesk AutoCAD-compatible software, located in San Diego, CA.
Under the terms of the agreement, Visio acquired source code and certain other assets for cash payments totaling US$6.7 million. Visio accounted for the transaction as a purchase with the acquisition price expensed primarily as in-process R&D in the March 1997 quarter. This technology was scheduled to be incorporated into a future product offering.
Under a prior separate arrangement, Visio employed nine developers from Boomerang Technology Inc. who remained located in San Diego, CA, and who would continue to develop the AutoCAD-compatible technology. Prior to forming Boomerang Technology Inc., the team of San Diego-based developers was employed by Softdesk, a leading supplier of AutoCAD-based AEC (Architectural/ Engineering/ Construction) software. Prior to joining Softdesk, the team developed and licensed Autodesk ADE (AutoCAD Data Extension) to Autodesk, which is an extension to the AutoCAD product.
Visio Corp. had long held a strong presence in the technical drawing market with Visio Technical. Visio Technical, on the market since December 1994, already held a 52% market share in units among comparably priced products sold through retailers and corporate resellers in the technical drawing category (PC Data, Q3, 1996, Distributors Report, US). Being able to offer a product such as IntelliCAD enabled Visio to better meet the needs of its existing users and open the door to new users who need the precision, functionality and features that this product offers.
“We see this acquisition as an important development in our long-term strategy to become a leader in the technical drawing market,” said Jeremy Jaech, president and CEO of Visio Corp. “The Boomerang technology is unique and powerful in that it marries traditional CAD with the latest in Windows technology, without sacrificing any compatibility with existing AutoCAD-based drawings or solutions.”
The first IntelliCAD preview beta version was release to wide public scrutiny late in November 1997. A second preview beta version was released in February 1998 and was timed to expire until June 1998.
“The combination of Visio’s market approach of making technical drawing available to a broad market, along with Boomerang’s extensive AutoCAD compatibility, creates an opportunity for users and developers to preserve their investment in existing drawings and applications without being locked into expensive, high-end tools like AutoCAD,” said Mike Bailey, president and CEO of Boomerang Technology Inc.
Consensus among beta testers is that IntelliCAD is a good solid, application that delivers on the claims that many felt were extraordinary and almost too good to be true. Extensive use of Windows facilities such as multiple document interface and built-in Visual Basic for Applications have been well-received. Native support for DWG documents and the high level of compatibility with AutoLISP and AutoCAD commands provide a new benchmark in the functionality/price equation. The commercial release was made available in March 1998 and includes a number of features not previously seen in the beta previews.
“We are very excited about this acquisition by Visio and believe that both customers and developers will appreciate the possibility of having a viable option to Autodesk’s AutoCAD technology,” said Bob Palioca, Chairman and CEO of Ketiv Technologies, a leading developer of AutoCAD AEC software.
Many other leading software developers have indicated they will support their products used with IntelliCAD. The number of developers with IntelliCAD-ready applications ready to ship indicates that industry support for IntelliCAD is very strong. Users requiring discipline-specific add-on applications or front-ends should feel confident that they will be able to obtain first-class, proven software from third-party vendors.
In a dramatic turn of events in the week after IntelliCAD was officially released in the United States, Visio found itself without Mike Bailey and seven of the original Boomerang Technology software development team. Explanations of the separation differ depending on the source. Whatever the circumstances, the loss of this key human resource is not a great start to the public birth of such a promising new product. Only time will tell on the effect that this change will have on IntelliCAD.
Late in 1999 after almost 18 months of marketing IntelliCAD 98, Visio surprised everyone by effectively divesting itself of IntelliCAD. It set up the IntelliCAD Technology Consortium and granted this independent body perpetual license to the IntelliCAD 2000 code base. The source code for IntelliCAD 2000 now became freely available to anyone who cared to register with the ITC. A license fee is levied on any party using the code in any commercial derivative and strict provisions are placed on its distribution.
IntelliCAD continues to find an appreciative user base even though much of the marketing momentum has gone.