( I placed this here and not in IdeaStation because it contains a tour of the current Dashboard system. It's also a longer-term strategic issue more than a short term feature request. Having said that, it's not needing much technologically. I hope you enjoy the text and give great insight in comments. Thanks. )
First a hint:
There is already a 'hidden' online Fusion 360 hub for you. Check on the Dashboard > (your name) > Signed into and retype that URL to a browser (for some reason, it's not clickable and not allowing copying either, but you can retype it manually).
Mine is: http://ue29c8a4e.autodesk360.com
This gives a page very much like the Fusion 360 / Sim 360 Dashboard, but without the 'New Data' and 'Edit' features. I.e. one cannot launch Fusion 360 / Sim 360 from here, but all the social networking (Quick Post) and data management features are there.
The benefit of using the browser for the Hub access is that one can keep it open alongside the Fusion 360 / Sim 360 applications. That's not possible with the in-app Dashboard tab (one cannot see both Dashboard and the design at the same time).
The browser window does not pick up events by itself - one must manually refresh it.
Why an in-app Dashboard is Bad
I'll be suggesting how the networked Fusion 360/Sim 360 personal Hub can be made to have all the functionality of the in-app one, i.e. launching of (or switching to) Autodesk native applications and getting social stream updates without refresh (which is probably a new feature even for current native apps - why else would the Dashboard have a Refresh icon).
But why would it be better not to have in-app Dashboards?
The main reason is that the current installation of multiple native apps (Fusion 360, Sim 360, probably more to come) is not aligned with their upgrade mechanism. The applications are tied to each other. I recently updated Fusion 360 to 1.8.674. Also Sim 360 updated. This is weird for the end user, to say the least. No other apps have such back door connections with each other.
But it's only the Dashboard that is the common component. One can launch a simulation from the Fusion 360 dashboard - and create a new design from the Sim 360 one. Remove the in-app Dashboard and all these mutual dependencies fall away. Sim 360 and Fusion 360 can be upgraded regardless of each other.
Another point of view is performance. The current Dashboard behaves slower than many pure web apps. It's certainly slower than native apps (but because we see it as a native app, we're less merciful on it). While moving the Dashboard to the Internet (where it already is) won't change it's behavior, optimizing its construction will.
But I'll come back to that at the end of the article.
To allow the 'New Data' and 'Edit' features to work off the Internet-based Dashboard, Fusion 360 and Sim 360 apps must register custom URLs that can be used to invoke them. Here are two links to show how that can be done on OS X (presumably, Windows has something similar):  
The in-app Dashboard knows that I have both Fusion 360 and Sim 360 installed. This could either be queried from the Autodesk 360 server, or the web page could try to read both URL protocols to see which gets through (indicating the app is indeed installed).
Btw, if there are more native apps to come (complementing the ones I have) I'd like to see them in the Dashboard i.e. dimmed. Currently, users without Sim 360 probably won't hear of it unless in a forum post or something. It should be obvious in the Dashboard which 'parts' of the compatible suite I've installed - and which I've opted out from.
To implement instantaneous updates of the Dashboard, without polling or manual refresh, Websockets mechanism can be used. This naturally needs the Autodesk 360 server to provide such capabilities, but would be the 'right' way to tie these things together.
( Disclaimer: I haven't tried Websocket programming myself, but the demos are impressive and it does seem to have proper support on all relevant browsers [Wikipedia]. Then again, if a browser does not support it, all it means is that the user must manually refresh to see changes in the Dashboard. )
Currently, even the in-app Dashboards don't do automated instantaneous refresh.
Current Dashboard functionality
Here's a fast tour around the current (1.8.674) Fusion 360 / Sim 360 implementation.
The Dashboard lives within the app's 'My Home' tab but also has four tabs of its own:
1. My Home
This is the only one I normally use. Has access to my data (unlike the 'Data' tab) but also contains social communications methods (the 'Quick Post' area).
There's a separate post / analysis on Quick Post looks unnecessarily scary. I'm not going that deep here.
I'm still not sure what this one is for. Looks more 'search' (but there's a separate tab for that). Skip.
These are essential for managing who gets access to your designs. They have nothing to do with the 'group' feature within Fusion 360, of course (and actually, one must use components for grouping there).
Never needed this. Should probably be merged with 'Data'?
5. Your name (account, profile, settings)
'Accounts' opens a nice summary site (in the browser) which has info on the Autodesk cloud-based products I'm using. Billing, quota status - very useful to visit!
Direct URL for that is: https://accounts.autodesk.com/users/<id>/view
( Note for OS X users: PROFILE tab in the account site does not seem to work with Safari 6.0.5 - error log here. )
( Side note:
Noticed the time zone entry only now. It seems to have loads of unnecessary choices and some that are plain bizarre:
ART is the Argentina Time (UTC-3), not Eastern European Time (EET, UTC+2)
No-one ever quality controls the time zone databases that get to products and then they get thrown out on our face. Sad but true. Also note the usual, unhelpful tooltip saying the obvious. )
Alerts are handled in two places in the Dashboard, for some reason. The bell icon next to one's name, but also in the left side (well, even Profile seems to be there as well).
Pushing same or related things in two separate corners of the UI is bad. It confuses us users instead of being helpful.
Alerts has Inbox, Archive, Sent, .. and a button for 'Quick Post'. Really - who uses that, here?
There's also a Calendar (won't try it - making integration to people's existing calendars would be much greater than adding yet another one).
What about alternative implementations?
If Autodesk went the networked-Dashboard road, it would allow anyone (with the exception of authentication - we'll come to that soon) the ability to make their own, custom reduced or enhanced Dashboards.
Wouldn't that Simply Be Cool?!
It would also benefit practically everyone. It allows companies or individuals to tailor Fusion 360 / Sim 360 / etc. workflows into their own custom branded sites, with reasonable effort.
It allows Autodesk to save on development costs, changing the game from developing (ehem, when last has the Dashboard seen any modern Web UI?) to merely collecting good ideas and maybe maintaining an 'official release' Dashboard page somewhere. Or Autodesk can jump completely to open source with regard to the Dashboard and truly co-create and maintain it with those in the community who wish to help.
It would allow easy localization of Dashboards (by the community).
It would allow integration with non-Autodesk social messaging APIs (s.a. Twitter).
Changes in the Fusion 360 / Sim 360 app(s) if Dashboard were detached
Even in the completely opened, "multivendor dashboard" scenario one can think certain people would prefer an in-app tab like it is now. That's cool, and can be done. There could be a preference for selecting the URL from which one wants the Dashboard to be fetched (i.e. Autodesk default, Corporate, Personally tweaked, github…).
If the Dashboard tab is not there, and no material tabs are visible either (i.e. launched via the Dock icon) Fusion 360 and Sim 360 would need a welcome screen that allows:
- sign in / sign out of Autodesk 360
- maybe opening of some recent projects
I'm sure this would not be a problem for Autodesk. Sim 360 already has a very nice wizard for starting a simulation:
The Fusion 360 Offline View is similar:
What the Welcome screen would not have is:
- management of groups (i.e. access rights)
- social communication tools
More importantly, removal of Dashboard clearly into the browser space would allow the role of Fusion 360, Sim 360 (and other such apps in the future) to be clearer. Currently, Dashboard is where these overlap: I can start a simulation in Fusion 360 Dashboard, and I can start a model in Sim 360 Dashboard. Both products show each other's versions in their about windows. If I upgrade one of them, both are upgraded. This feels somewhat wrong (though I understand the current technical reasons why it's like this), but if the Dashboard is taken away, all settles.
This would help Autodesk in managing the separate projects.
1. Offline mode
Already now, offline mode has no in-app Dashboard. There is a simplified Offline View that only allows creation of new designs, or simulations (interestingly, one can create a Sim 360 simulation from Fusion 360 offline mode, or Fusion 360 model from Sim 360 - this is the kind of coupling that I don't think we users need and which can be let loose if the Dashboards were detached from native apps).
If hosting Dashboard implementations on servers other than Autodesk (i.e. in an Intranet), the current authentication scheme won't work. Some system based i.e. on key pairs should be used instead (this is not my expertise but I know it can be done).
The social approach of Cloud is potentially huge, and the current Fusion 360 / Sim 360 Dashboard looks like a rather crippled tool for that. In order to gain the full benefits of turning Fusion 360 / Sim 360 family into a cloud solution, more openness in the implementation and testing of the Dashboard component would imho benefit Autodesk, individual end users as well as customers small and large.
I am not proposing to take lead on this, other than saying it can be done. If Autodesk wants and if we support.
IT guy into Cleantech. Aiming to bridge public transport to 21st century solutions.
Yes, the web access should be easier to find. It's not meant to be hidden it's one of the more important features of the dashboard.
That you ore any member of a guest can access the dashboard inside or outside of the apps.
I won't get into the connection between Sim and Fusion, other than to say when SolidWorks puts out a new version 3rd party apps have to update in order to read the SolidWorks format. Sim and Fusion 360 are no different. the linkage is because of the underlying data format. In the future the two will only need to update together when the format changes, which won't be every update.
As to separating the two, our ides have been to eventually allow either method. Run and launch from external browser, or use the embedded experience.
We will be doing some feedback session early next year on alternate embedded dashboards and external dashboards but for the time being the design will be focused on the embedded.
The workflow, you described and the technical implementation is how we work with GrabCAD Workbench as an external data service. So we understand how to do this already very well. It does complicate things with the number of browser in use.
15" Macbook Pro Retina - OSX 10.9 in Portland, Oregon