Still, the project remained low-key: even though Cheung and Heermann had to get Autodesk’s tax, legal, and finance teams involved before they could release SketchBook to Apple’s online App Store, they never made a formal presentation to top management. Heermann says Bass saw the app only once before it was released, when Heermann showed it to him in passing, in a hallway. The CEO said, “Cool—I like it.”
When the SketchBook app finally came out in September 2009, Cheung, 40, and Heermann, 47, hoped to get 100,000 downloads in a year. They got one million in 50 days. Suddenly aware of the possibilities, they moved fast to make an iPad version and had it available the day the devices went on sale in April 2010.
Heermann thinks the timing of the apps may prove critical because consumer-style products are beginning to gain popularity among the corporate workforce, a phenomenon known as consumerization. That shift could spell trouble for companies that are slow to adapt. Now that Autodesk is a top-ranked app seller, says Heerman, who is now the company’s director of consumer products, “it’s almost like having the company shape up and get ready for the future.”