The State of the Union on Mac CAD

“Ten years ago in 2004 the Mac installed base was touted at 20 million users. At that time, 1 percent of the installed base was 200,000 users. But here at Architosh we know that between all the five leading CAD vendors on the Mac, back in 2004, there were more than 200,000 users on Mac,” Anthony Frausto-Robledo reports for Architosh. “Now that the Mac has gained in popularity we feel that the estimate of 1-3 percent is not only fair but likely closer to the upper mid-range between 1-3 percent.”

“The installed Mac base grew by 20 million from mid year 2011 through mid year 2014. That’s three years and 6.7 million new Mac users per year,” Frausto-Robledo reports. “On a per year basis (6,700,000 x 0.1 = 67,000 ; x 0.2 = 134,000 ; x 0.3 = 201,000 users) the Mac’s addressable CAD market grows by as little as 67,000 new potential users to as much as 200,000. At Apple’s current rate, the company will have an installed base of 100 million Mac users in just 2.5 years or perhaps in time for WWDC 2017. And by that time Apple may have 3 million Mac CAD users worldwide, or at the very least somewhere north of 1.5 million. Either way, both of those numbers warrant the attention of major CAD developers going forward, and we are seeing it.”

Tons more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Chief Architect arrives on Mac; fully native, built from the ground-up for OS X – December 5, 2013
Architosh reviews AutoCAD for Mac 2013: Full-featured, industrial-grade 2D/3D CAD application – January 30, 2013
Autodesk on AutoCAD for Mac: ‘We could no longer ignore Mac’s comeback’ – August 31, 2010
Apple gaining back customers in architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry – July 20, 2005
A Powerbook in a Windows/AutoCAD Architecture Firm – April 2, 2003


  1. Been doing 2D CAD on the Mac since 1986 with PowerDraw, now PowerCADD and since 2006 with SolidWorks 3D running in Boot Camp.

    It would be manageable for Daussalt to port SolidWorks to the Mac. The stumbling block is the 100 or more “Addons” which need translating by individual vendors which add critical functionality to SolidWorks.

    I can’t see those 3rd party vendors being willing spend the money and manpower to port and maintain code for 2 platforms.

    That is why Windows has such a “first mover lock” on serious 3D CAD. Can it change? Yeah, I suppose if Microsoft really screws up. Not likely, though.

      1. I’m assuming you’re iCal’ing this for when 3rd party vendors bring the major Solidworks plugins to Mac… *after* Solidworks itself is first ported to Macs.

        Because that’s what Bo’s saying is unlikely, not that Microsoft will really screw up.

          1. Not at all how I read it based on context. Bo is clearly a Mac user at heart, but a realist.

            Even without that context, your iCal must be for when Microsoft *really* screws up, not their run-of-the-mill Windows Vista and Windows 8 screwups.

        1. to be fair, there has been little reason for CAD designers to even look at a Mac. >80% of CAD packages are Windows-only.

          moreover, while most Mac professionals actually are platform agnostic, using whatever tool works best to accomplish their work, there always seems to be people like you on the Mac board who accuse people who use MS to be ignorant — while you never answer the question of what is the equivalent Apple solution, and at what price. The popular MDN Apple-only hubris only shows YOUR ignorance.

          To the article: Ashlar-Vellum CAD products are awesome on the Mac, but they just aren’t as capable or compatible with the mainstream industry. As was mentioned before, Windows CAD programs like Solidworks have a gazillion plugins that just aren’t available for Mac CAD programs.

          A lively ecosystem is necessary, and Cook has been spending all his energy on iOS rather than continuing to improve the Mac platform for business and enterprise customers. That is the bottom line that forces a lot of us Mac users to also boot Windows every day.

    1. Same here – PowerDraw, PowerCADD, Vectorworks (which is awesome). But I also use Solidworks 2015 and AutoCAD MEP 2015 under Parallels.

      I agree with your assessment of the add-on packages – won’t happen. AutoCAD has a Mac version – but no add-in support from vendors.

  2. I’m running Bentley’s Microstation v8.5 (an older version) under Windows 7 using Parallels 10 on a 2012 i7 iMac with 24gb of ram and it works like a charm. It is the best “windows” machine I’ve ever used. BY FAR.

    The latest version of Microstation works just as well. Including dual screen use. I use the older version due to licensing requirements. (older license on the Mac, newer license on the company owned windows laptop). I do 2D drawings but testing of 3D renderings is fine. However, you are limited by the graphics processor in the iMac. Using the “coherence mode” in Parallels makes Microstation feel just like a mac app. With 24gb of RAM, I experience NO slowdowns at all. Just about minute of consideration during start up, plugging in a thumb drive and shut down is all that is required- the rest of the time, you’ll think you are running a native Mac app. In addition, I stream radio, run mail, messengers, Facebook, and, if something is happening, watch tv while I’m working doing CAD with absolutely NO degradation in performance.

    Bottom line: if you want to run Microstation on a Mac, go out and get parallels, buy a windows license and let ‘er rip. You’ll have no problems.

    1. I hear you brother. I’ve been using parallels on a intel mac since the machines became available. Definitely the best PC out there. And this is with only 8GB ram. It means I can work from home without having to bring the PC with me.
      My work laptop (a real PC) crashes almost every time I disconnect from a monitor and take it to a meeting. A real POS. Still it is better than the desktop I had before.
      I am sure Apple will tell all when the installed base reaches 100M. The reality is that the base will be highly active and the majority will be using their Macs as their main machine especially for shopping etc.

    2. two more things I want to remark about:
      1) 24gb of Ram sounds like a lot but 2-8gb Ram sticks to go from 8gb to 24gb costs $150 at Crucial. Everything I run takes up about 10gb, so it is overkill but RAM will never be an issue for me. The $150 is worth it. Disk speed is not an issue, a fusion drive or SSD would be even faster but I don’t notice any slowdowns at all. Basically the iMac is a screamer. and the new ones are faster. (for CAD work- do your homework on the latest Retina iMac. I would be concerned that the graphics processors would introduce a lag on 3d rendering. however, the results would be stunning. I might be overly concerned here: let me be clear- the iMac outperforms ANY windows machine I’ve ever had by a wide margin and I’ve had some pretty high dollar windows graphics cards. )
      2) All add ons in Microstation-configurations, printer drivers, MDL routines, Microstation BASIC and VBA extensions and even old UCMs work as they should under Parallels and Win 7.

  3. While I waited and waited for all the “big” CAD companies to port over to Mac OSx I gave up and found a different solution. For Industrial Design 3D CAD work I use Ashlar Vellum’s Cobalt and it is awesome. Just like I kept waiting for Quicken and Word to update or get better, I found myself moving on to other things. Their loss, I’m good.

  4. Sadly, Autodesk Inventor remains Windows-only, with some parts of it unnecessarily dependent on Microsoft Excel and Microsoft VBA for complete functionality.

    Whether Inventor or Solidworks, I’m just patiently waiting to see which software package delivers a Mac native version first. :-/

  5. Fyi: Checking the math in the article, I find that 0.1 of 6,700,000 is 670,000, NOT 67,000. The following computations are also inaccurate. No doubt an extra 0 was used in the calc.

  6. Just heard today during Solidworks course that they are working on releasing SW for Mac soon. Probably in 2017 as best guess. If this happens goodbye Windows!

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