"IntelliCADD" began as an independent AM/FM/GIS (Automated Mapping/Facilities Management) software firm in La Mesa, CA USA. One of its products, AutoCAD Data Extension, allowed multiple users to access the same AutoCAD drawing, or have a single drawing point to entities stored in other drawings. Softdesk, the then largest third-party product developer for Autodesk, acquired this company in 1994 and used the know-how to secretly develop an AutoCAD clone. Their concern for rapidly developing the software was due to rumors that Autodesk would begin culling their third party development "partners" after the company started to develop products that competed with these so called "partners"
Autodesk had recently entered into direct competition with Cyco Software (another third-party Autodesk partner), and Softdesk was concerned that the same could happen to them. The AutoCAD-clone project was kept semi-secret under the project name "Phoenix".
In December 1996 Autodesk announced that it would instead buy Softdesk outright for $90 million in common stock. A complaint regarding the inclusive sale of IntelliCADD was filed with the US Federal Trade Commission ("FTC"). According to FTC Docket No. C-3756:
In approximately June 1996, Softdesk determined that it no longer had the financial ability to support continued development and marketing of the IntelliCADD product. The head of the team that had developed the product proposed to purchase the technology and formed Boomerang Technology, Inc. ("Boomerang") for the purpose of acquiring the product, completing its development, and bringing the product to market.
Boomerang negotiated with Softdesk for the purchase of the IntelliCADD product and exchanged draft purchase agreements with Softdesk. Softdesk, however, terminated those negotiations at around the time that Autodesk agreed to acquire Softdesk. Softdesk representatives previously told Boomerang that Softdesk would sell the IntelliCADD product to Boomerang if Softdesk were purchased by someone other than Autodesk, but would not sell it to Boomerang if Softdesk were purchased by Autodesk...
After being advised by Commission staff that Autodesk's acquisition of Softdesk raised competitive concerns in the market for personal computer-based CAD engines, Softdesk resumed negotiations with Boomerang and divested and sold all of its rights in the IntelliCADD product to Boomerang pursuant to a Technology Transfer Agreement dated February 21, 1997. On that same date, Boomerang assigned and sold all of its rights to the IntelliCADD product to Visio Corporation.
By late 1996 a formal search for new venture capital was underway. Marketing director Robert Drummer was referred to John Forbes at Visio Corporation and "gave him the pitch". Further according to his own first-hand account, "He (John Forbes) called back a few hours later and said that he along with Jeremy Jaech and Ted Johnson would be chartering a plane that day and would be down to take a look at a demo. They arrived in San Diego that evening." A core team of nine Softdesk/IntelliCADD developers soon moved to become employees of Visio.
In March 1997 the FTC forbade "Autodesk or Softdesk from re-acquiring the IntelliCADD product or any entity that owns or controls it, without prior notice to the Commission for a 10 year period". The FTC granted Visio leave to acquire Boomerang completely for $6.7 million in the same ruling that prevented Autodesk from doing so (above).
IntelliCAD's original architect, Mike Bailey, turned and left Visio before the first release. Nevertheless, after several years of background development, "Visio IntelliCAD" (one 'D' for the product, two for name of the original company) was finally released for the first time to the public in 1998 with a very low price compared to AutoCAD. Twelve thousand licenses of IntelliCAD were sold in the first three months.
Visio continued to develop both the IntelliCAD Application and the DWG libraries used to read and write to the file types produced by AutoCAD. Within a year of beginning the development on IntelliCAD at Visio it was announced that Visio was to be aquired by Microsoft, also located in Seattle, WA near the former Visio campus.
Within a few short weeks the news had been leaked at Microsoft that the IntelliCAD technology was not to be included in Microsoft's stable of products but would instead used to form two distinct but similar non-profit corporations, one to continue to develop the DWG read/write libraries and one to continue to build an engine that other software development companies could utilize to develop and release their own CAD products.
While many inside Microsoft and out felt the move would be a death toll for the products it has turned out to be quite the opposite with members all over the world sustaining both important organizations. The two companies are called the Open Design Alliance for the DWG libraries, and the IntelliCAD Technology Consortium being the name of the corporation responsible for the development of the CAD engine.
Note of Interest:Our founder, a developer at a third party development company, helped to create one of the top Architectural application for AutoCAD during the aquisitions of both Softdesk and Visio. Fortunately he had a front row seat to witness the early history of the famous libraries that help to create progeCAD, the replacement for AutoCAD.
Visio expressed an interest in his company, their technology and the developmment staff. Near the same timeframe when the merger with Microsoft occurred the companies technology, called ArchT, was included in the formation of the new non-profit.
Several years later he joined the IntelliCAD Technology Consortium as the head of operations after being asked to build the company into a self sustaining, healthy company. When he left the consortium after his three year guidance, he began this company leaving the consortium with record income and increased finacial focus and oversight.