An open letter to Trimble


#1

Dear Trimble,

So, 14 months ago, I previewed much of this current scenario. My first ask was about how to implement plugins in the cloud to which I was told SU was actively pursuing a strategy. Didn’t happen (yet).

At the time, I wondered why the focus on cloud UNLESS it was to be a focus of migration:

There I also reference the cost and expense of the cloud port:

Porting to the cloud an application of this scope is an immense task. OnShape raised $80,000,000 for their company who already had experienced CAD developers, with much of it targeted toward the OnShape Cloud Platform. This is NOT trivial stuff.

Now I know SU doesn’t compete with OnShape functionally, but it does provide a realworld working example of how a top-tier 3D app can function as a true professional tool in the cloud.

I later defended Trimble’s SU2cloud strategy:


and offered ideas to get there sooner than later in order to get more time to perfect the cloud based version-- as it’s clear getting plugins in the cloud is non-trivial.

I also predicted my own personal belief regarding the actual ability of SU to be improved by Trimble from a functional standpoint (based on last years complete few improvements):

So, here we are a year later, and mostly I’d say my prognostications have come true. As mentioned in the previous threads, Trimble has not shared with us their plans to move to the cloud, but evidenced by their complete lack of any sort of significant features to the Desktop App in the new “upgrade,” one can ONLY conclude (as I did last year) the effort is going into refactored cloud development.

Let me be perfectly clear on this point. Trimble is a private company. Trimble owns 100% of SketchUp. Private companies should always act in their best interest. And… Trimble’s business is NOT primarily supported by SketchUp.

So, my question to Trimble would be: Why don’t you publish your roadmap? It would seem it would be in your best interest, especially after 2 years of such stagnant development in the “flagship” product, to let your primary SU users (the Pros-- the ones that matter most to Trimble) know what your plans are. Transparency here, especially in this solemn moment-- would seem to be your friend.

Let’s look at the scorecard:

  1. You have an aging product which is crippled by it’s architecture. In this day and age of super fast GPUs capable of rendering millions of polys in split seconds, your product grinds to a halt when virtually every other poly modeler is excelling.
  2. You clearly have no answer to this problem, and you rightly understand it would be throwing good money after bad on a sunsetted architecture with no future. That is why there are few if any new features.
  3. You depend on the graciousness of plugin developers to rev this existing shell into the future. Unfortunately, these stellar programmers are not GUI experts and they have no standards or interfaces to guide and let them seamlessly integrate their designs into your application-- so it all becomes a hodge podge of panels, colored buttons and modal/non-modal interfaces.
  4. You have 3 different code bases, all sharing a bit of code (at least) for SU that must be maintained. Mac, Windows, and Cloud. Please don’t tell me they are all the same-- I have links all around here which refute that. I know, that IS expensive and an ongoing concern, even with automated build processes, and especially when they need to be updated so often based on new patchwork fixes on an old architecture-- or even OS updates.
  5. And now you’re going to a subscription based model without a reasonable customer value proposition. You have no roadmap or plans to actually fix any of the above problems. It can appear to some of us customers you’re getting ready for a big shift (or tapping out) and want a last cash grab.

So, in the interest of your company, you should do what’s right for your shareholders. And providing a layer or two of an authentic road map describing what your plans are to those who still choose to follow you, would make sense to me. Otherwise, we’re left to the scenario planning and extinction theories which will continue.

I know we all love SketchUp. But it’s now so long in the tooth, and I believe new serious customers looking for a real 3D app that can grow with them will take a pass.

Trimble, it is in your hands. But remember, your customers have a voice-- and in this day and age, that is a non-trivial fact.


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SketchUp in 2019: where great ideas get to work
#2

I agree. Very well said.
This may not be the worst SketchUp update, but it’s not very exciting either.
A change of license isn’t what most customers value.

Subscription is BAD for the end user unless you’re a corporation that can afford renting lots of monthly software. They quickly stack up to a level I know I can’t afford. I have to feed the kids as well.
Hiding away the (for the time being) perpetual license under some tiny text link isn’t very customer centric IMHO.


#3

Totally agree with everything above. If we are going to get screwed with a subscription then at least give us something worth renting. SU is becoming a dinosaur, it limps along with the help of the fantastic plugin authors who have kept SU going for years. I have been around since the @last days and looks like it’s becoming my last days.


#4

So, basically, Sketchup 2017 is the last version that will work with Plugins? Various folks have recommended I switch to Fusion 3D. The plugin development environment is MUCH better documented, and the tool has MUCH better capabilities including parametric designs and very sophisticated animations. PLUS, it’s subscription is significantly cheaper. OTOH, it does require a more significant investment into learning to use, and I do not know if it has the equivalent of Layout. For “maker”-type applications (prototyping, wood working, etc…) I think Fusion 3D is clearly superior. I’m uncertain about architectural uses.


#5

All recent versions of Pro works with plug-ins.


#6

It’s the last free version that functions with plugins. Professional continue to have plugins in the new releases of Pro.


#7

FormZ is a good SU alternative, it has its own version of Layout too.


#8

Comes with arch tools (walls, windows, stair tools etc) and a good rendering engine. Yes it does cost a bit more too.


#9

@chippwalters. Thank you for taking the time to write your open letter. You make a lot of points here, but I shall only pick up one for now - because it seems to be the most important.

You stated that Trimble is a private company and asked that we share our multi-year roadmap. I completely understand that a lot of people would love to know where we’re taking SketchUp. However, we’re not privately-held but a public company (TRMB on NASDAQ). US public companies are subject to US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) rules. These rules place very substantial restrictions on what we can say about our future plans. Therefore, in line with most other public companies, we do not publish roadmaps.

Some of the other companies in the 3D or AEC spaces are privately held, so the GAAP rules don’t apply to them and they are therefore much more free to talk about their future plans than we are.

All the best.


#11

#12

This thread is getting kind of ‘meta’, but I want to assure everyone that there is no intention on my team’s part to provide insult on this or any other topic. GAAP rules are, unfortunately, not an arbitrary claim. In fact, they are a significant component of the legal rules under which our business operates.

As I said in the thread from which Solo is quoting Chip’s response to my comment, this is just one of three reasons why we don’t habitually share our roadmap publicly. Additionally, not all public US corporations interpret GAAP in the same way (re: Autodesk), but it isn’t up to me to change Trimble’s policy on this subject.


#13

Every time I (and many others) met members from the SketchUp team we were so delighted on how open and approachable people they are. That’s why we are still here! Users shouldn’t blame the SketchUp team for the situation. Still, similar disappointment occurs to some degree on every release (I remember SU 7.2, 8…), as it probably occurs for other softwares too. In parts expectations are very diverse and high, but also one could hope that after 7 years SketchUp has been strengthened enough since the Google era to start taking off, not only in terms of success but also realization of expectations.

The letter is targeted to decision-makers at Trimble. It is up to them to judge the situation (or risk that people would really vote by their feet) and whether to adjust their interpretation of law and company culture of openess.


#14

@hugh_mcevoy & @chippwalters. Ummmm not being an authority on GAAP rules, the acronym does refer to ACCOUNTING Principles. See https://venturebeat.com/2018/12/01/january-accounting-rule-change-will-be-painful-for-tech-companies/. I think companies like Microsoft and Apple are happy to share product development plans with developers, BETA’s in fact so please, perhaps not “multi-year roadmaps” but let’s not use GAAP rules as cover.

And yes a public company, who gives GUIDANCE see https://www.fool.com/earnings/call-transcripts/2019/02/06/trimble-navigation-ltd-trmb-q4-2018-earnings-confe.aspx. Sketchup is only a very small part of Trimble and only mentioned twice at the end of the guidance. But what you can learn is that there will be no turning back for them on this subscription model. My suggestion would be to reach out the analysts who cover Trimble (listed at the end of the guidance) and share our combined outcry, that could have an effect on share price, perhaps the only thing that matters to Trimble.

Using Sketchup since @Last Software, I just began Blender tutorials and made the decision to not subscribe, ever.


#15

I don\t know about the roadmap stuff or what GAAP is, however I have only ever worked for two companies, one private in London and one public in Sweden. If I spoke about future plans and roadmaps outside either of them I would expect to have lost my job without question.

Certainly my current employer takes it even further, I can technically loose my job for taking a photo on my phone anywhere inside my office. And I work in Sweden, thats very liberal compared to the US.


#16

Yeah, but you are an employee. It should be your company the one giving the roadmap…

And we should not forget that we are asking for a roadmap because SketchUp’s development has been so limited for the last years, that one can only be worry about sketchUp’s future.


#18

I understand the motivation to going online. Have you considered publishing the object model that runs within the browser? This would enable people writing Chrome extensions or enhanced browsers to interact with the model using Javascript. In that case the scripts/extensions would be loaded locally.
I have written a browser frame that can dynamically load scripts and interact with local devices. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss it further if your interested.


#19

It 's exactly one of the feelings I have, an other one being sort of “imposed way” that no one asked me for, with no way to get out of it without loss… It’s for me a loyalty issue…


#20

Here is my response Open letter


#21

How odd, you joined this forum a week ago and now suddenly a pro Trimble open letter all in it’s own thread, advertised in another, kinda suspicious to me.


#22

Wow! @Solo , if you really are that cynical and skeptical, then there’s not much that anyone could say to convince you. There are very simple reasons that this profile has only been active for a week.