BALTIMORE, MD (BE Conference) - I caught up to Keith Bentley at this years annual user meeting in Baltimore. I enjoy meeting with Keith, who despite his stature in the CAD software business (CTO of Bentley Software), makes himself accessible, listens patiently and answers every question, no matter how foolish. I resolve to test his limits. "Any little Bentleys ready to take up the reigns?" Keith laughs easily, naturally. No, his son wants to be a teacher, he says. How can you not like this guy?
We discuss the conference. Bentley seems to have cut back this year. Last year there were 2 user meetings, one in London and one in California. This year, BE (Benley Empowered, as the annual user meeting and conference is known) is more about engineering applications. The talk is more talk of energy analysis, sustainability, bridge building, water modeling, etc. MicroStation is more or less as a given and is deemphasized. Also, gone are the hands on training classes of previous conferences -- an omission lamented by more than one attendee.
Disappointed drafters notwithstanding, Bentley is clearly going after the "high end user." It's acquisitions are clearly on that path and the company sees engineering (the "E" in AEC) as where it can distinguish itself and grow, almost conceding entirely the "low end" (quotes are mine) to its archrival, Autodesk.
So with all these diverse applications being acquired, surely the challenge is to get them to work together, maybe even share the same look and feel. It's the biggest job I have, says Keith has. Sharing data through neutral files is still happening between certain applications, and customers are demanding better. Less of a priority -- but still important -- is some commonality in look and feel. However, don't expect the sameness of MS Office applications -- the engineering applications are far to dissimilar to allow that.
Though for years, MicroStation has been getting bigger and bigger, another of Keith's jobs is now to break it down. Parts of MicroStation will find themselves in different Bentley applications. For example, a geometry creation module from MicrStation could find its way into the water modeling application, substituted for whatever Haestad had used when they owned it.
Athens is the code name for the next release of MicroStation products. I wonder out loud if Bentley was naming releases after defunct empires. Again, the quick and easy laugh. No, Bentley's theme is Olympic cities. Jeez, anybody else would have thrown me out by now.