As announced today, Google has sold their widely popular 3D modeling application, SketchUp, to Trimble, a company that focuses on GPS- and heavy-construction hardware and software (for example, the steel and concrete BIM software Tekla belongs to Trimble).
This is a very interesting and at least on the surface quite appropriate move. After all, SketchUp was originally created as an architectural software and moving it (back) to a company that has a clear AEC-based focus seems to makes sense. Over the years, however, SketchUp’s user-base has broadened considerably and now includes anyone from movie-set designers, digital fabricators, geo-modelers to builders, engineers and architects.
Under the Google “umbrella” (as someone nicely put it), Sketchup gained broad acceptance (and interoperability with various geo-based applications) – not least through the availability of a free version. It is, however, important to remember why Google bought it – to serve as a geo-modeler for Google Earth. This focus must have left the development crew between needing to create more geo-based modeling tools (like streetview-based texturing) and wanting to create modeling and design-based tools (like the solid tools or LayOut, SketchUp’s documentation add-on). With other Google products simply being killed off these days once Google’s focus changes, I credit the SketchUp gang in Boulder with foresight and business savvy in this move.
Having a new AEC-based owner, SketchUp has a chance to get closer to its “roots” and enhance its modeling, visualization and scripting toolset. It remains to be seen how much other pressures towards a single-focused application or a too-technical approach (after all, SketchUp was always a simple yet powerful modeler) can be resisted.
In any case… I am curious what we will see next from Trimble SketchUp. As an aside, the title “A new home for SketchUp” uses interesting wording in that it suggests that any company can merely be a steward of this product. I am sure many users are passionate enough to see it this way.
Below are some quotes – first from the SU announcement (indicating a strong focus on modeling tools):
We’ll be better able to focus on our core communities: modelers who have been with us from the beginning, as well as future SketchUppers who have yet to discover our products. Designers, builders and makers of things have always been the heart and soul of SketchUp.
This one is from the Trimble announcement (possibly indicating a stronger focus on data and collaboration and affirming their support for third-party developers):
Users will be able to collect data, design, model, and collaborate on one platform. The combined capability will enhance our ability to extend our existing market applications including the cadastral, heavy civil, and building and construction industries. In addition, the SketchUp platform will enable Trimble, third-party developers and our distribution partners to efficiently develop new applications.
Finally, there’s this promising quote from Scott Lininger (SketchUp as a “platform”):
Trimble wants to invest strongly in SketchUp as a platform, and advance its mission of “3D for Everyone.”