Business is competition and every competition has its contestants, its judges and its winners. Sports has its Olympics. But businesses also vie for top prizes in several arenas. Movies have their Oscars, Motor Trend has is Car of the Year. Travel magazine ranks cruises, hotels and more. Consumer Reports sorts out just about every type of consumer product. The list goes on...But no one wants to say which is the best CAD product
Wait. Let me take that back. With the lack of true arbiters, many CAD vendors have declared themselves #1, using criteria such as sales figures, seats sold or -- as has been done on these pages -- with some new technology that is certain to leave its competition in the dust. But contestants placing olive wreaths on their own heads is hardly credible and has only caused confusion among potential buyers.
Why not let the contestants compete? In an arena, with judges, an audience...? It's not a new idea but previous attempts at CAD competitions have been spotty. I have been involved in three of them:
- A mechanical CAD competition (Archimedes) was held at the M/Tech event in 1998 as part of a bigger show. All contestants were given a computer mouse to model and analyze. But several leading vendors were missing. As far I know, it the event was never held again. I was with IMSI at the time and we participated with TurboCAD.
- A more recent competition pitted Inventor against SolidWorks (see article). The less robust Inventor was the surprise winner in this 2002 shootout, as judged both by the judge and the audience. The resulting firestorm of protests from SolidWorks backers left well -meaning contest organizer Elise Moss feeling bruised and battered. Chief among the protests was that the contest tested the user more than the product, a claim of some validity as the winner was an Autodesk-trained demo jock. SolidWorks had declined official participation in the event, so a SolidWorks user had been invited to participate.
- An architectural 3D CAD Challenge has been the best contest I have ever seen. Several teams were given a project and were asked to create a design as an audience watched. But the last one seems to have occurred in 2003. Largely a labor of love by Geoffrey Moore Langdon, this contest should serve as a basis for future competitions. I served as a judge one year.
Next: What would make a good, fair CAD contest?