Friday, May 11, 2012

SolidWorks's Dilemma - How to kill a successful product? Part II

No shortage of challenges to SolidWorks for the coming year.

T-Splines, supplement  to  SolidWorks , Now - at Autodesk stables
My previous post, look at the reasons why SolidWorks company stopped most of the existing software development around 2007 and began to develop new software, SolidWorks v6, scheduled to release at the end of the year 2012.

It seems that in its existing SolidWorks reached an impasse. The software was built around the Parasolid Geometric kernel belongs to the great competitor, "Siemens" (NX and Solid Edge software). In recent years, Siemens started to be selective providing users of Parasolid the new innovative technologies like the "Synchronous Technology " . SolidWorks has found itself in an awkward position. Siemens policy puts it behind all the competitors with no technological solution for a real direct editing of geometry. Reliance on Parasolid prevented the development of appropriate.

Last week, Deelip Menezes published in his acclaimed blog that "… for many years Dassault Systems had been trying to get SolidWorks to stop licensing Parasolid as its modeling kernel from rival Siemens PLM (then UGS) " . Deelip Implying that recent personnel changes in SolidWorks, V.P of development and the founder left, are related to that subject. 
Looking back, loss of independence of SolidWorks in "DS" in recent years has left SW very "poor" on the technology side. A technology company can proceed by self-development and by investment in acquisitions and mergers. Look like from 2007, SolidWorks focus only on developing the new V6 software and almost stop to invest at the current software.
Under Dassault, SolidWorks promote negligible number of acquisitions that could gain more value to the product. Significant recent acquisition was SRAC Cosmos analyses software. Cosmos, which was never considered a major player for FEM simulation, not continued to advance technologically under DS / SW and even abandoned challenging technologies like multiphasic, flow and EMS.  Unwillingness to invest resources in acquisitions, leave SolidWorks less attractive. Autodesk for example, made some major acquisitions in recent years including CFDesign, Algor, MoldFlow , Alias and invest on integrate the technology to the to the whole product line , PTC purchases almost every year some new technologies on various issues and continues to invest in developing modules and existing software.

Tsplines software is great example of how SW lost technology to competitors. The company has developed a module for the treatment of complicated geometry of the solid model. The company intends to release an updated module for SolidWorks with Revolutionary surfaces design capabilities. The Acquisition of  Tsplines by Autodesk in late 2011, was one of the most annoying thing to users of SolidWorks. "Why do not you bought them?" Asked a blogger at interview with Bernard Charles, Dassault CEO, "We have these capabilities in Catia" was the response of the CEO. Practice, SolidWorks users do not have access to Catia and not a suitable solution for advance surface manipulations because Tsplines module joins Alias as another powerful tool for Autodesk Inventor and no longer exists for SolidWorks.  
Lack of ability or desire to purchase Tsplines before Autodesk put a hand on the technology illustrates the difficulty to continue to develop, innovate and move forward under DS and to avoid becoming a "baby" Catia with limited capabilities. With V6 version, when the geometry Kernel is from Catia, there are no certainty about the borders between the two and how will Dassault prevent SW to cut a share from the pricey flagship software sales.

SolidWorks biggest challenge is how to keep the users, those who continue to pay annual maintenance and expected technological Advantage, Satisfied. After all, they are expected to get new software with a new interface, different file types and more. What will happen to all the applications, macro, patterns, and engineering information? What happens to customers who invest now in Epdm for their engineering information management? Is the software will remain the same format? SolidWorks management software (EPDM) will also change and will be replaced by Enovia software. What does it mean for customers?
Stephen Wolfe covers in a recent article the transition of customers between two Catia generations, V5 to V6. Hint, it is not a piece of cake, and this is about the same geometry kernel while SolidWorks and SW v6 are two completely different worlds.
the 500  = 7 years subscriptions
The commercial side is also interesting . Consider a customer who purchased SolidWorks Premium in 2007. He probably paid about 10,000 Euro + 2,500 Euro for the subscription. The argument that from 2007 SolidWorks adds no significant capabilities gets a stronger meaning for that client. By the time he will get SolidWorks V6 he already pay for seven years, almost 17,500 Euro!  Is it worth it?

Gal Raz

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Solidworks's dilemma - how to kill a successful product?

Solidworks's dilemma - how to kill a successful product?  
SolidWorks V6 ?
Part I

Since the the last Solidworks World Conference, the web teeming with responses and interpretations to information released by Dassault / Solidworks about stopping the development of Solidworks software and focusing on whole new program, Solidworks V6. Users claims that development of Solidworks almost stopped and there is no significant progress since the 2007 version , Solidworks confirms focusing on developing entirely new software come out soon.

So why to kill a successful program? Well, there are several good reasons. Some are technical and some political.  The process started several years ago and puts
SolidWorks to the greatest challenge in its history.

A. To understand the first reason we have to go back to year 95, the first days of Solidworks Corporation, before the acquisition by the French Dassault Group.  Solidworks start with 
using existing and proven technology to become the first company to deliver  a real MS windows parametric solid software to the market.  Complacency and inertia among the market leaders in those years and especially the Boston area neighbor - PTC, helped  Solidworks to caught the CAD world by surprise and leap in a short time to leading position. In those first years, Solidworks managers claim that they fear only from the next Solidworks, a new startup companies someone is funding now in his own garage to be the next SolidWorks. So, the genes of Solidworks carry a strong desire to be the one to deliver the next technology to the market.

B. Competitors - to succeed quickly and without wasting resources, Solidworks chose, wherever possible, to purchase technologies over  self-development. The foundation of any CAD software built around a core software called geometric kernel.  SolidWorks chose to buy the kernel from Parasolid  and the tools for managing constraints from a company called D-cube. Those two key critical technology software companies were acquired over the years by the competitor Siemens/Unigraphics  (Solid Edge and NX software).  This made discomfort at Solidworks environment especially since it remained the only parametric CAD software that acquires the core kernel. Customers occasionally ask "what happens if Siemens decided to stop selling licenses to Solidworks". The answers from Solidworks become much more hesitant when Siemens announced that the new Synchronous Technology, developed by Parasolid and D-Cube, will not released to Solidworks, leaving Solidworks with no real direct editing capabilities. Continue to rely in future on technology from competitors suddenly became a dangerous gamble.

C.  Dassault Systemes – Since they bought SW, The questions never stooped.  When they will kill Solidworks and make the product it Catia baby  or Catia Light ?  At DS, Solidworks has always been the stepson.
Successful but different.  
Today, DS facing increasing challenges. Autodesk has grown alarmingly and they cannot ignore it anymore.  PTC is very successful with its PLM software while Dassault struggling with the new PLM V6 technology.  Chrysler's, the big auto maker and a traditional and important Dassault customer, acquired by Fiat and as a result, switch to Siemens software to line with Fiat's design environment. 
For Dassault it is better to develop a unified identity and more competitive for the whole product lines.

D. The Conflict with Catia software - Dassault two competing software, Solidworks and Catia, both present a similar capabilities. Solidworks has a big advantage in terms of cost and ease of use. Dassault don't like to find Catia users escaping to the lower price SolidWorks.  Embarrassingly, Siemens customer, find it is much easier to share data with SolidWorks software then Catia users.  The desire to break away from Parasolid and Siemens requires that SolidWorks change it  kernel to Catia kernel, CGM. Transition to CGM is problematic and complicated technically (See : Thoughts On SolidWorks V6, CGM And Parasolid ). It is an excellent opportunity to re-development of the whole program through integration Dassault's corporate identity and its modern solutions group V6. 

E.  SolidWorks software is already old - the current generation of Solidworks with us since 95. Solidworks was the first indeed, but today is also the oldest, a Dinosaur in terms of the software world. The software performances and quality Issues in recent years can be attributed to the long history of developments.  After seventeen years with the same technology, sometimes the best thing is simply to start from scratch.

Next :Part II

Gal Raz