Geo Week News

November 12, 2012

What Bentley means by 'strategic alliance' with Trimble

It’s more than just interoperability

AMSTERDAM – Bentley kicked off its Be Inspired event on Monday in Amsterdam, and while this reporter was covering opening day of SPAR Europe, it was hard to miss the tweets: The recently announced “strategic alliance” with Trimble was a big part of the message that opened the Bentley event.

CEO Greg Bentley used his time on stage to talk about how the association was “very strategic.”

Such excitement was in evidence at last week’s Trimble event as well, where SPAR had a chance to catch up with Bentley VP of core marketing Huw Roberts and Bentley research director Dean Bowman to talk about what “strategic alliance” really means.

Isn’t this just another interoperability agreement? A scheme dreamed up by the marketing departments?

Not at all, said Roberts. He said this was an agreement that involved CEO-to-CEO interaction. Further, it was an agreement initiated by common customers as much as anything else.

“We were seeing a convergence of our expertise in the virtual world with Trimble’s expertise in the physical world,” Roberts said. For example, he noted that there are a lot of users taking data from their laser scanners and putting it into Bentley’s modeling tools, an ability Bentley has invested in and is actively promoting. The fact, he said, that all of that point cloud data is geo-coordinated throughout all of Bentley’s offerings was particularly grabbing Trimble customers’ attention.

Trimble’s customers, the construction firms in particular, are often where the digital world of design meets the physical world of actual building, Roberts said, and as there are increasing demands for what’s built to more accurately reflect what’s designed, “being able to take point clouds and stream them to where you actually are in the field is a perfect way of navigating some of the challenges of the construction environment.”

“In construction workflows,” Bowman said, “if I can do a scan, and see irregularities, it would be great to bring that into the model and identify it midstream … Here I am in the physical world, I see it, and I want to cross reference that with the virtual world and have more than just location data.”

Aren’t Bentley and Tekla, Trimble’s recent $500 million purchase, competitors, though?

“We had already been sharing with Tekla,” Roberts said. “They’re more for detailing vs. design and modification. We have detailing, too, but that’s okay. We recognize that our users will use software from everyone.” He pointed out that Bentley even exchanged APIs with Autodesk not long ago.

“It’s not just saying, ‘Let’s trade SDKs,’ it’s bringing in key users to advise us,” Roberts said. “And that relationship is pretty cool.” NDAs have been signed. Coders are talking to coders. “It’s not a relationship where you’re really worried about [intellectual property]. That’s why it’s really an alliance.”

So, is this a strategic move, to team up with Trimble before Autodesk does? “We fully expect that every software company is working together with everyone else at some point,” Roberts said.

In the meantime, expect coordinated product releases, software updates that include new support for user-requested applications, and solutions that really do look at problems customers are having project by project.

“This isn’t just at the practical level,” Roberts said. “This balances vision and pie-in-the-sky requests right down to the very practical.”

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