BIM and the iPhone App Effect

Posted on May 24, 2010


As handy as BIM is, it needs add-on programs, or “apps” (applications), to enhance its power. Some examples of software that my company uses to amplify Revit’s (our BIM software) usefulness are Building Explorer and eSPECS. This is no slight to Revit. In fact, it is a complement to Revit’s developers that they have created a software popular enough that others have developed programs to overlay on Revit.

The iPhone App Effect, where thousands of simple programs are developed by third-party programmers to work with or through the iPhone, have helped make the iPhone the dominant smart phone in its market by making it more attractive as a phone and increasing its adoption. The genius of the reluctant App Effect (Apple initially fought the independent programmers who developed iPhone apps) is that others apply their creativity and resources, and take the risk of the app’s success. If it succeeds, Apple wins; if it does not, Apple does not lose. A key item to note:  Apple does not compete with the apps, overloading its phone with things it thinks each user needs. No, the user can customize the phone herself, which keeps the phone simple and agile as a piece of hardware.

The correlation to Revit is clear: AutoDesk should not do with Revit what it did with AutoCAD and bog it down with functions that people may or may not adopt, like Architectural Desktop. The word from the tech world on AutoCAD was always:  users are only accessing a fraction of AutoCAD’s functionality. Why? Because some of the functions were difficult to use or not useful at all.

AutoDesk did a good job with Navisworks, but they should take a page out of Apple’s repertoire and keep Revit basic and lean (not a RAM hog—is it too late?) and let others not only develop software to enhance Revit’s strength as a design, production and integrated project delivery tool, but let Revit users decide which software overlays, or apps, are the most useful. The market, a.k.a. BIM users, should decide the dominant software platforms and which applications make the base software better.