LAS VEGAS – Autodesk Inc. is placing a big bet on mobiledevices, particularly Apple’s iPad, as it continues to build and update tabletand smart phone ready versions of its software portfolio.

On the eve of the 3D design firm’s annual Autodesk University conference, whichwill officially kick off in Las Vegas on Tuesday, company executives outlined astrategy to bring its traditional engineering and architect customers a widerarray of apps that work on the mobile form factor.

For Autodesk, this will allow its professional customers to take to the field,whip out their iPads and start generating new data right into their designsoftware.

In addition to officially releasing free and paid versions of its popularSketchBook Mobile app for Android-based devices at the show, the company isalso rolling out an update to its AutoCAD WS mobile application for iPad,iPhone and iPod Touch devices. The free mobile app lets users view, edit andshare DWG files on their Apple-based devices.

The update will add new features such as an revamped interface and offlineusage functionality to allow users to take files offline on their devices incase they run into a spotty connection. The company will also add direct file uploads from an iPad, as users can open an e-mail attachment and upload it directly into their AutoCAD WS account.

But these apps only scratch the surface of what Autodesk has in store for itscustomers, said Brian Matthews, vice-president of Autodesk Labs.

The company is working on Project Photofly, an app that will create 3D modelsbased directly on digital photos. “Point clouds are generated from nothing buta digital camera,” Matthews said.

The app, which is expected to work on PCs as well as the iPad, will also utilizethe cloud, as it will allow users to submit their photos to an Autodesk server tocreate the 3D models.

Autodesk’s emphasis on the iPad is not only due to the tablet’s huge marketshare, but also because of the technology behind the device itself.

“This device has really started to change the way our professional customersthink about getting their design data in the field,” said Chris Bradshaw, chiefmarketing officer at Autodesk.

And like the iPad, Autodesk’s SketchBook app is “cross-over” program that isfinding users in the business space as well as the consumer market, said Amar Hanspal,senior vice-president of Autodesk’s platform solutions and emerging businessunit.

The decision to focus onmobile platforms, including Apple and Android-based devices, comes at a timewhen Autodesk is looking to embrace these consumers, particularly buddinginventors and tech savvy teenagers.

The iOS version of its SketchBook Mobile app has seen success in the consumermarket with over 2 million recorded downloads to date, plus the company said ithas received big interest in its Web-based home remodeling program Homestyler,which was released earlier this year.

The company even plans to demo a new iPad app called Autodesk Tinkerbox duringthis week’s conference, aimed at helping teenagers solve mechanical and designpuzzles. That app, which will be available on Apple’s app store soon, is alsobeing built for Google’s mobile OS.

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