My mind is still a bit boggled with today’s news that US-based IT giant Trimble is acquiring SketchUp from the search giant Google (normally, we hear lots of stories about the latter buying businesses – it’s less common for us to read about it disposing of technologies). This moves the simple-to-use modelling software to the portfolio of a corporation that already has a significant (though mainly US-based) construction project management business, Meridian (providing Proliance and Prolog solutions, offering both in-house and SaaS options – a bit like McLaren Software perhaps, post).
Depending on your location and definitions, the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) market is worth around 10-13% of global GDP. Moreover, the industry is in the midst of a transition from processes built around old-style 2D design towards building information modelling (BIM). At first sight, Google, it seems, has opted out of technologies that could have allowed it to relate detailed supply chain data to the needs of numerous construction businesses and their clients, handing the opportunity, instead, to Trimble. But, maybe, it figured that SketchUp was on the periphery of this particular market (overshadowed by the outputs of AEC modelling software vendors such as Autodesk, Bentley, Graphisoft, etc?) and decided to hand this ‘problem child’ to a carer with more domain expertise?
Hobbyist users of SketchUp may not be easily accommodated, but Trimble has extensive experience in the AEC sector, and is potentially more committed to developing its capabilities for professionals in this sector. Moreover, Meridian Proliance and Prolog are strong project management applications, and with SketchUp and its development team as part of the Trimble portfolio could be even stronger as the AEC sector moves towards BIM. The deal could also help Trimble take its Meridian applications beyond their US-based heartland – SketchUp has more international adoption and could persuade its users to look at other elements of the Trimble portfolio. Trimble also has good experience in GPS/GIS – so there is potential to link its new 3D modelling capabilities to specific locations. And (updated 27 April 2012), via Twitter, Joe Croser has suggested Trimble could also see SketchUp as its entrance to the AEC market for 3D laser scan visualisation and modelling.
I will try to unboggle my mind a bit more over the coming days regarding this step-change….