June 16, 2008
PTC Announces Windchill ProductPoint
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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PTC announced Windchill ProductPoint, its new solution for capturing, handling, and sharing product development information. “Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 is breaking the milestone of 100 million licenses sold this year. Capitalizing on this momentum, PTC has developed Windchill ProductPoint based on the SharePoint platform and .NET framework. With Windchill ProductPoint, PTC extends the collaboration capabilities of SharePoint to offer product development companies the ability to manage and share structured product content in multiple CAD formats,” said Brian J. Scott, vice president, worldwide industry strategy, Microsoft Corporation. “Microsoft and PTC
have built a deep relationship throughout the development of Windchill ProductPoint and we look forward to furthering our partnership.”

Windchill ProductPoint will give SharePoint reach into the world of Product Development. Windows SharePoint Services, Microsoft’s technology infrastructure for collaboration, has been well adopted across manufacturing companies as a backbone for Office applications, primarily for document sharing and management. With Windchill ProductPoint, PTC will enable SharePoint to “understand” CAD data, increasing the reach of the familiar SharePoint user experience, and enhancing its usage across broader product development teams.

For OEMs and suppliers, a future release of Windchill ProductPoint is planned to support the sharing of information among other Windchill-based systems. Small manufacturers may find that Windchill ProductPoint alone offers sufficient capabilities to meet their needs for protecting and sharing product data. Windchill ProductPoint benefits companies of all sizes, providing smaller companies with an ideal steppingstone into product lifecycle management (PLM) and giving larger companies with a SharePoint strategy the ability to extend their product development system to broader user communities.

Highlights of Windchill ProductPoint include:

·        Multi-CAD SharePoint services offer basic functions for managing Pro/ENGINEER data as well as other CAD file formats, their structures, and inter-relationships ProductView services enable visual product interaction with 3D thumbnails, visualization of lightweight product viewables, and Web-based markup tools for redlining designs

·        Visual navigation and interrogation of files dependencies Windchill Portlets present Windchill information (e.g. task lists) to users in a familiar SharePoint portal Windchill PLM Connector enables sharing of CAD data across Windchill-based systems in support of customer or supplier collaboration, or internal collaboration among different divisions

·        Improved efficiency and collaboration through access of engineering content to broader product development teams Minimal learning curve, due to familiar Microsoft environment Version control offers advantages over network drive-based storage systems and FTP sites, thus enabling effective concurrent engineering

·        Leverages the easy and fast deployment characteristics of SharePoint and can be deployed on an existing SharePoint implementation Low total cost of ownership since Windchill ProductPoint uses the Windows SharePoint Services infrastructure, which is included with all Microsoft Server solutions

As a component of the PTC Product Development System, a flexible and scalable configuration of PTC solutions specifically designed and tested to work together, Windchill ProductPoint contributes key capabilities needed for successful product development. “Windchill ProductPoint enhances Microsoft SharePoint by enabling teams to manage and share structured product development information typically created by CAD and engineering applications," said James E. Heppelmann, executive vice president, software products, and chief product officer, PTC. “Windchill ProductPoint significantly enhances the utility of SharePoint for product development. Smaller companies will find this new
solution to be a good entry point for PLM, while larger companies will see the solution as a natural extension to their product development system. Windchill ProductPoint demonstrates PTC’s commitment to providing scalable solutions that help customers of all sizes optimize their product development processes.”

Windchill ProductPoint was announced and demonstrated at the PTC/USER World Event on June 2, 2008. It is expected to be available in Q4 2008.

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

I saw Windchill ProductPoint introduced and demonstrated at the annual global media and analyst event as part of the PTC/USER world event a couple of weeks ago. This was one of the two product announcements made at the event (the other one being ProductView – see link below in “The Week’s Top 5”). Both are related to PTC’s data management initiatives. This was interesting because although Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire and CoCreate were discussed, they were hardly the focus of the event. This emphasis indicates to me that the pendulum is, at least for now, swinging toward the data management side of the equation and away from the MCAD side – although
the design data you manage has to come from somewhere, right? I also found PTC’s foray into employing Microsoft’s SharePoint Server interesting because it is entering territory that an unnamed competitor trailblazed, but as far as I can tell, didn’t really catch on as they had hoped. PTC, however, might have better luck and greater acceptance because of its Windchill customer base and the way technology seems to be implemented.

SharePoint, specifically Windows SharePoint Services (WSS), is Microsoft’s infrastructure for collaboration. It is an application and also a technology platform for the developingWeb-based applications such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS). WSS is bundled with Windows Server, and Microsoft positions WSS, the base SharePoint offering, as a team-based collaboration environment that enables users to create workspaces and then author, publish, store, share, and keep track of information. WSS also supports integration with and offline synchronization through Outlook. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) is a secondary offering that enhances WSS to enable it to act as a
document management system for Microsoft Office. Microsoft touts SharePoint’s easy-of-use, rapid deployment, and low total cost of ownership as its key benefits.

PTC realized that SharePoint, by itself, is not very effective for PLM since it is based on a simple model of individual data files. Unfortunately, the complex file structures and configurations which are at the heart of mechanical and electrical CAD systems as well as technical documentation tools and other applications related to product development are not understood by SharePoint, so most product developers will find that SharePoint does not work well with the core product development tools they use each day. Of course, SharePoint offers none of the more advanced PLM concepts like BOM management, configuration and change management, component and supplier management, or
visualization and digital mockup, and others.

Analogous to how MOSS enhances WSS functionality to meet the document management requirements of more sophisticated Office users, Windchill ProductPoint enhances Microsoft SharePoint with richer capabilities that enable teams to manage and share complex and structured product development information. Examples of complex structured data common in product development include MCAD, ECAD, technical publishing, embedded software, and math and simulation tools.

Windchill ProductPoint will be integrated with Pro/ENGINEER, and offers basic capabilities to capture and manage Pro/ENGINEER and other CAD formats. In aligning with Microsoft’s strategy of attempting to keep things simple, PTC will not replicate the advanced capabilities of Pro/INTRALINK or Windchill PDMLink in Windchill ProductPoint. PTC thinks that current users of Windchill PDMLink or Pro/INTRALINK would generally not consider Windchill ProductPoint to be an alternative to those products, but smaller companies who have no data management solution today or are just getting started with Pro/ENGINEER may find Windchill ProductPoint to be a great solution to get started with,
knowing that as their needs grow, they have the option of complementing Windchill ProductPoint with the more powerful capabilities of Pro/INTRALINK or Windchill PDMLink.

According to the company, because Windchill ProductPoint does not overlap Pro/INTRALINK or Windchill PDMLink capabilities, PTC does not plan to develop migration tools or enable license transfers that would enable a customer to switch to Windchill ProductPoint.

While there are certain similarities between Windchill ProductPoint and Windchill ProjectLink in terms of being able to share files and information across distributed teams via collaboration workspaces, there are also important differences. For example, Windchill ProjectLink is built on the same server as Windchill, shares a common database and look and feel with Windchill PDMLink, and thus is a natural extension to a Windchill deployment. Adding Windchill ProjectLink to Windchill PDMLink will continue to be a simple and cost effective option for Windchill PDMLink customers, especially those lacking a mandate to adopt and use SharePoint.

On a go-forward basis, PTC says it will continue to direct the focus of Windchill ProjectLink enhancements on the complementary needs of program and portfolio management, while working with Microsoft to help customers get ever more value out of Windchill ProductPoint as an enterprise collaboration and file sharing platform.

So, will PTC succeed with Microsoft’s SharePoint where others truly haven’t? Only time will tell, but we’ll probably have to wait about a year from now (it’s not scheduled to be available until late 2008) to see if it has penetrated the market as PTC envisions and hopes.

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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.

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