October 10, 2005
Alias Acquisition Will Expand Design Possibilities For Autodesk
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by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Autodesk, Inc. announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Alias, a privately held developer of 3D graphics technology, for $182 million in cash. This acquisition will grow Autodesk's expertise and offerings for the design of consumer products and automotive, as well as in the media and entertainment markets. Autodesk anticipates that the transaction will close within the next four to six months.

"This acquisition brings to Autodesk a highly talented group of individuals, a wealth of technologies and a great set of products," said Carl Bass, COO of Autodesk. "Alias' technology spans several of our most important markets and augments the synergy between our design and media businesses. Our design customers are demanding more powerful visualization, animation and publishing capabilities. Our media and entertainment customers are increasingly using the data created by our design applications for broadcast, film and games projects. By combining the technology and talents of our two companies, we will be better able to continue delivering solutions that address our customers' complex

Founded as Alias Research in 1983, Alias is headquartered in Toronto, Canada. Alias customers are some of the world's premier entertainment and manufacturing companies, including Industrial Light & Magic, DreamWorks SKG, Nintendo, General Motors and BMW. Alias revenues were $83 million in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2005.

Alias' product lines comprise sketching, animation, visual effects, design, modeling, rendering and reviewing solutions. Alias MotionBuilder is Alias' 3D character animation product, Alias FBX is widely used in the exchange and use of 3D content, and Maya is the company's Academy Award-winning 3D application. These products will augment Autodesk's offering in the film and video and interactive games segments. Alias StudioTools -- software for design tasks from 2D sketches to production models -- will add industrial design and high-end visualization capabilities to Autodesk's manufacturing solutions. Autodesk will continue to develop the Alias product lines in conjunction with Autodesk's
complementary products and technologies.

"This acquisition is designed to leverage the strengths of both companies," stated Doug Walker, president and CEO of Alias. "Alias' customers will benefit from nearly $300 million in R&D spending while having access to new and complementary products and technologies. Together, Autodesk and Alias will deliver products and services that give form to great ideas from the fantasy world of film to the factory floor."

I honestly can't say that I was all that surprised that Alias was acquired, although I am a little surprised that it ended up being Autodesk doing the acquiring. I've thought for some time that an Autodesk competitor would acquire Alias, but when you look at the product lines and customer bases of the respective companies, they actually appear to be quite complementary - both potentially and in reality. So, the acquisition, at least outwardly looks like it makes sense from the perspectives of the two companies and their customers. Both companies have considerable presence in broadly divergent industries - manufacturing and entertainment production. The common link between the two
industries, is, of course, visualization, and ultimately it is this that will prove the real value of the acquisition.

Autodesk had the opportunity to acquire Alias about a year and a half ago, but was in the midst of a major corporate restructuring, so passed at the time. Alias was acquired by two groups -- Accel-KKR and Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan - who, together are the current owners. Over time, Alias will be integrated into Autodesk's manufacturing and media/entertainment divisions.

With the acquisition, Autodesk has opportunities it did not previously have, namely, a strong inroad to automotive styling/design and computer-aided industrial design (CAID) through Alias' Studio Tools line. This broadens Autodesk's appeal to the conceptual side of the product development cycle where previously it was lacking.

Looking ahead on the industrial/mechanical side of the equation, I think that there will be some interoperability/compatibility issues to be addressed between Studio Tools and Inventor. Currently, I tend to doubt that Inventor is able to handle and maintain the quality of surfaces coming in from Studio Tools because they are so mathematically complex. This issue isn't insurmountable, but will require substantial effort to solve. Looking down the road, I'm also wondering if Autodesk will lock the file format down for complex 3D (that is going to get a lot more complex with the surfaces generated by Studio Tools), much like it has done with DWG and DWF. We'll see…

Admittedly $182 million is a lot of cash, but I believe that Autodesk is getting a lot of technology for the money. I also believe that this acquisition will prove mutually beneficial for both parties, near and long term. As far as M&As go, this is one of the more significant ones to transpire because its implications are so potentially big.

The Week's Top 5

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

Dassault Systemes has completed the acquisition of ABAQUS Inc., an established developer of advanced finite element analysis software. The all-cash purchase price was $413 million. Dassault also announced that SIMULIA will be a new brand in its portfolio. Bernard Charles, President and CEO of Dassault Systemes, stated, "Our customers' priority is to integrate and expand the scope of realistic simulation, in order to implement reliable and efficient workflow. Our investment in ABAQUS, as well as SIMULIA, our unified multi-physics simulation platform, enables us to offer the benefits of realistic 3D simulation to a very broad audience. Over a five-month integration period we have become
well-acquainted with the impressive team of people working at ABAQUS, and are pleased to welcome them into the DS family." Mark Goldstein, currently CEO of ABAQUS, will expand his role to lead the overall SIMULIA portfolio, becoming the CEO of the new brand.

Microsoft Corp. and Dassault Systemes announced that as part of their strategic alliance, Dassault Systemes they will make V5 PLM available for Microsoft Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, including versions of CATIA V5, DELMIA V5, ENOVIA V5, and SMARTEAM. All V5 PLM products will be able to take advantage of the 64-bit architecture of Windows XP Professional x64 Edition. The 64-bit architecture includes memory support up to 128 GB of RAM and 16 terabytes of virtual memory. Native 64-bit applications will deliver more data per clock cycle, making them run faster and more efficiently. Customers will also be able to move to 64-bit computing while maintaining their existing investments in
32-bit software and Windows. The new 64-bit versions of V5 PLM will be available on systems from both Intel and AMD.

The DWGgateway data translation tool, which has addressed compatibility issues between older and newer versions of AutoCAD, now offers the ability to publish AutoCAD designs in the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). This new capability makes it possible for design engineers to share designs with anyone, regardless of whether the recipient has AutoCAD software. The recipient needs only free Adobe Reader software. Adobe PDF publishing capability for the DWGgateway tool, the result of PDF Library technology licensed from Adobe Systems Inc., makes AutoCAD files portable, enhancing communication and collaboration. PDF publishing capability also protects proprietary information contained in
AutoCAD designs by formatting them as read-only documents versus interactive files.

Altair Engineering Inc., a company that develops product development, advanced engineering software, and grid computing technology, announced the completion of a series of agreements with IBM. The agreements facilitate IBM reselling Altair's PBS Professional workload management solution and the optimization of PBS Professional on IBM compute platforms. PBS Professional is a workload management solution for grid computing environments, Linux clusters, and distributed servers and workstations. The software optimizes the utilization of computing resources by intelligently scheduling and managing computational workload. By increasing the efficiency of the hardware and software resources, PBS
Professional reduces total cost of ownership for grid computing customers.

IBM and Dassault Systemes have teamed to integrate IBM Lotus Notes and Dassault Systemes 3D XML technology, to be delivered with the next release version of 3D XML Player fully supporting Lotus Notes. The 3D XML Player for Lotus Notes gives users outside the engineering department the ability to enhance collaboration and joint decision-making by sharing product and business information with other knowledge workers from their desktops, through the traditional Lotus Notes interface. With the 3DXML Player, users get a 3D experience - product rendering, projected shadows, and automatic screenshot insertion, as well as
navigation tools. The interactive & intuitive 3D compass provides a 3D manipulation experience, and the immersive product tree gives easy access to product assembly organization and components. The new 3D XML Player version will be available from the Dassault Systemes web site with R16 at no charge by the end of the year.

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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.


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