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Autodesk publicly announced a new program for developers of third-party applications based on its Autodesk 3D product line the week of Aug. 27 that certifies their products and helps them connect with Autodesk resellers and solution providers.

The Preferred Industry Partner Program will provide technical, sales and channel training assistance to developers who earn membership, according to executives of the company, based in San Rafael, Calif. The program is specifically focused on helping Autodesk move its installed base of two-dimensional drafting software customers to Autodesk’s three-dimensional modeling tools, such as Autodesk Inventor, AutoCAD Revit, AutoCAD Architecture, and AutoCAD Civil 3D.

The company also named the first six developer partners to be included in the program: AcadGraph, a German project management extension developer for AutoCAD Architecture; CGS, an infrastructure design tool for AutoCAD Civil 3D; HSBSoft, a Belgian developer of timber framing automation software for the construction industry that builds on Revit & AutoCAD Architecture; INOVA, an eastern European developer of telecom tools based on AutoCAD Map 3D; and RDV Systems, an Israeli developer of infrastructure simulation tools for AutoCAD Civil 3D.

The program is an extension of the Autodesk Developer Network, which has just over 3,000 member companies, according to Jim Quanci, the worldwide director of the ADN. The Preferred Industry Partner Program, he said, is for a “higher-level ADN member.”

” If you’re one of our VARS,” Quanci said, “and you’re looking to add more value to your sale, you can do that with one of these add-on applications.” But currently, customers and partners have to sort through the 3,000 or so ADN members without any sort of guidance, he said. “So we’re qualifying specific and members to be preferred industry partners, to make that communication easy and to create trust that will make both our VARs and our customers have an easier time adding more value, [so they] get more functionality out of our products.”

The program was kicked off in December 2006 with partners internally, according to Quanci. The last eight months were spent “nailing down who the first partners were going to be, and starting to build relationships with their salespeople.”

Autodesk is not charging partners for membership. In some cases, the partners are sharing the cost of educating resellers. Autodesk’s sales force will work with the partners and channel partners to qualify customers and to do initial implementations, according to Karl Osti, manager for Autodesk’s Preferred Industry Partner Program.

“We are looking at all different aspects of the partner,” Osti said. “On one side we’re looking at what market they’re in, what kind of solution [they] have, and whether they are they are building on our strategy around the BIM [Building Information Model] or digital prototyping. We’re looking to see if they can help us in terms of market position and knowledge, can they help us move our installed base from a 2-D drafting to a 3-D modeling environment.”

“But on the other side,” Osti continued, “we want to add value to the preferred industry partner—and one of these values is educating our sales force and our channel about what is the real value add of software like HSBSoft.”

Karel Vinckier, founder and CEO of HSBSoft, headquartered in Gent, Belgium, said HSBSoft hopes to grow rapidly internationally through Autodesk’s reseller network. The company’s software helps convert building designs into specifications for wood framing and other elements that can be used to prefabricate them in a shop or factory.

“The program is going to help us on several levels,” Vinckier said. “First of all, there’s the sales side—it’s a great endorsement for HSBSoft that Autodesk has chosen us as a preferred partner. The other aspect is the technical assistance—being a preferred industry partner, we’ll get the highest level of cooperation between our technical teams. Also, in the future when Autodesk launches new versions of ADT, we can give input on what kinds of features we’d like to have to enhance our product.”