This morning Autodesk released a new tab in the Autodesk Exchange dilalog (in AutoCAD Vanilla only) specifically for apps. This is a link to a virtual apps store not unlike those seen in itunes. The current apps developed have been created by some trusted partners with Autodesk, but are now currently open to anyone with a notion to do so. Some are quite simple and some are more than complicated. Costs range from free to at least one more than $5000 dollars.
This seemingly small addition to the AutoCAD interface not only adds a virtually unlimited amount of resources to the common CAD user, but it also fundamentally changes the way users will look at problems and solutions in AutoCAD and potentially in all other Autodesk software. What ever works in AutoCAD, can certainly be replicated in other software.
The way it is set up, any CAD smarty-pants can set up an app of their own and either give it away on the exchange or earn cash by charging for it. (I just had a vision of a million AutoCAD users seeing dollar sign across the globe, thinking about some lisp or VBA they wrote and use every day.) Add to that all the small companies that already develop plug-ins for AutoCAD, and the larger companies that have companion software. The Apps tab will allow them all to compete in the same market place and it also provides the familiar PayPal interface to handle the financial side.
Not only should every developer of simple lisps to companion products be excited, but mostly Joe AutoCAD user. We just may find a free solution to a long standing problem when we open AutoCAD this morning. For more on this check out the official press release from Autodesk.