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My personal Software "Wish" list

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This is in response to Joe Deppe's response to Bill's question. I am not
trying to knock what is a very good product, but it's major problem is that
it is too expensive a package for a small office.
I've had the same argument with other vendors who inform me that I would be
surprised as to how many small offices purchase their products without
consideration to cost.
$1,500 to $3,000.00 for an integrated software that performes the functions
that Joe describes may seem reasonable, but when push comes to shove, few of
us have the available funds for such a purchase. Before you flame me into
oblivion, consider the growing market of independents who need valuable
tools but don't have the receivable to justify the expense. Possibly a
scaled down version of these products will satisfy this niche of the

I have asked one vendor who has a great 3D analysis package why he does not
have anything smaller than a $2,000 to $3,000 analysis package. I will be
the first to admit that his software is one of the most feature laden
packages on the market and certainly in line with the high end packages. He
told me that he had a student version that was limited to model sizes that
most of us in a small office would never exceed. I can understand (and
admire) his willingness to market a student version at less than 5% of his
full package price. I would have been willing to pay two or three times the
student rate to obtain the same package, but he has not decided to meet this
part of the market.
Frame programs are used only occasionally in my office. They represent a
small but needed segment of my business. This, is where programs like Risa2d
shine. They meet the magic price that most independent offices can tolerate
without spending a year or more debating.

Another consideration is the amount of use a program gets. AutoCad R14 is
very expensive, but on a cost per hour bases is probably one of the least
expensive programs in many offices. Only recently has this been challenged,
with the avaiability of inexpensive programs that meet the needs of most
engineering offices. Autodesk realized this market potential a long time ago
and launched Autocad LT. At just a hair over 10% of the full Autocad version
retail price, LT meets the needs of a majority of Independent offices and at
a price that most won't think twice about. Recently there has been a great
move at DWG standarization (even Autodesk has an Autocad upgrade that makes
their DWG output compatible with other products) with an aliance led by
Visio. The standardization of DWG format will cement a formerly unstable low
end cad marketplace. With larger more financially stable vendors entering
the market (Intellicad, Imagineer, Autocad LT, and others) there is a
greater chance for survival of these products against the king - Autocad.
Once this happens, many will reconsider their need for an all encompassing
package the exceedes their needs and move to more affordable packages.

This leads us to the "magic" price. What would you spend for any software
without great consideration and sole searching. Personally I believe this
magic number is around $250.00 to $495.00. The gamble is the vendor who not
only has to bet that he will win with quantity sales, but must be prepared
for the increased tech support issues that will haunt him once the product
sales increase.

There is no question in my mind that the programs like Eagle Point are
potentially important additions to integrated design (I have not as yet
reviewed EP's software so must preface with potential). Unfortunately, it
will probably remain in the "wish list" of most engineers who only wish they
could afford the package. I believe the answer is to reduce the price and
hit a larger market, finance the software or lease it for use (something I'm
not to keen on) or leave it to the rich and famous. At some point in the
future another vendor will pick up on the features and come to market with a
lower cost competitor.

Again, with all due respect to EP and the other products I have only hinted
at, they have proven their products abilities and this is not of issue. The
engineers ability to afford and use the product is the bottom line.

One last observation. Independent Engineers are entering the market
quickly - and especially where downsizing has thrust them into competing
with larger offices. The competing issues had to do with project fee's. With
the high cost of software, the larger office may continue to have a
competitive edge by their ability to afford the tools of their trade.
On the other side of the coin - vendors have a tremendous market that they
have yet to tap into. By reducing the size or limiting the size of the model
their software will handle can create affordable sofeware as well as a
greater sales potental and benifit the small office that must live within
that "magic" price.

Any comments on software pricing and small independent offices?

Dennis Wish PE