February 15, 2010
On The Ground and In The Clouds At SolidWorks World 2010
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We just returned from SolidWorks World 2010 in Anaheim, California, and as usual, came away with a lot of news concerning the company, its products, and its future.
This year's event began on an up note when Jeff Ray, SolidWorks' CEO announced that attendance was up over the 5,000 mark compared with 4,300 last year. Good news for any industry, much less the MCAD industry.
Early in the first day's general session, Jeff Ray introduced the president and CEO of Dassault Systemes, Bernard Charlès. It's hard to believe that SolidWorks has been a part of the Dassault family since 1997, and this was the first onstage SolidWorks World appearance by Charlès, a mechanical engineer by training who appeared relaxed and dressed for the occasion - business casual and not his typical suit and tie - and that definitely helped with audience acceptance.
He began by naming Dassault's six “Lovemarks” - SolidWorks, SIMULIA, CATIA, ENOVIA, DELMIA, and 3DVIA. I don't know if “lovemarks” was the best choice of words. Brands or product lines might have been a better choice, but regardless of that, Charlès said that Dassault had more than two million customers/users worldwide. He also promoted a new tagline for SolidWorks - “3D for Professionals” - kind of catchy.
He said there would be tighter collaboration between the R&D departments of SolidWorks and Dassault; a good thing and something I think ultimately will allow SolidWorks to break its ties with the Parasolid modeling kernel licensed from arch-rival, Siemens PLM. A tighter integration with Dassault would virtually guarantee (finally) a direct native translation connection with CATIA. Also, I wouldn't be surprised with the tighter link that the next release of SolidWorks would be designated as something like V6 (akin to CATIA), and not necessarily 2011. Not a certainty, but I think a definite possibility.
Charlès concluded his part of the morning's program by demonstrating a 3DVIA iPod Touch app manipulating a SolidWorks model and by saying, “Unlike Autodesk, we do not believe the world is flat [2D].” Most agreed that this was a good first showing for Charlès at SolidWorks World.
Jeff Ray then took the stage and talked about SolidWorks' emphasis on green/sustainable design technology, after which he and Charlès (as navigator) drove a Factory Five '33 electric hot rod onto the stage.
Ray then talked about SolidWorks' Engineering Stimulus Package that saw 60,000 downloads of software, 22,000 participants who took training through resellers, 2,200 who got jobs, and 400 who earned Certified SolidWorks Associate (CSWA) credentials.
He ended by discussing SolidWorks' increased R&D investment, continued focus on performance, and introducing Austin O'Malley, head of R&D.
O'Malley and his team presented a Tech Preview that briefly discussed what they have been working on the past three years or so and might appear in future products. Although no guarantees were made or timetables given, some interesting things were presented.
Some of the highlights of the Tech Preview included:
It's the last point I and a lot of folks in the audience responded with raised eye brows of optimism (“Cool”) and groans of skepticism (“Yeah, right”). In either case, it was some very interesting news with some very interesting implications, as well as some very interesting possibilities.
So, let's take a closer look at some of the possibilities of cloud computing in the context of SolidWorks.
Looking Into the Cloud and (Possible) Future Products
for and deliver on.
The SolidWorks PDS and future offerings will be built upon the ENOVIA V6 framework/ backbone that will provide data storage, sharing access, and workspace control. The cloud computing, software-as-service (SaS) will likely be offered at two different levels over time - one for data sharing through communication/collaboration, and the second being the ability to actually use SolidWorks via the Internet and a browser. SolidWorks' first foray into cloud computing (PDS) will likely affect and ultimately supersede its two currently available PDM offerings - Workgroup and Enterprise.
It will be interesting to see how the business model and pricing shakes out for cloud computing. It's attractive, though, because it is scalable and will probably be easier to administer for most organizations with less associated hardware dependence and overhead.
Will SolidWorks succeed with cloud computing when others have shrugged it off or abandoned it? Based on the preliminary plan, commitment, and historic support of its user community, I would say the odds are ultimately in their favor, although not without some turbulence in the cloud. However, it is a refreshing, new direction for the CAD industry whose time may have finally come.
We were impressed with the number of exhibitors at SolidWorks World this year, as well as the many new and innovative products they showed. Following are just some of the products that caught our eye:
We'll be covering each of these and other products that were introduced at SolidWorks World in the upcoming weeks and months.
Customer Requests and the Next SolidWorks Release
The last day (Wednesday's) general session is always the one I most look forward to because the main topics are customer requests for future product as well as what to (possibly) expect in the next release with regard to functionality through new features and enhancements.
Here are (most of) this year's Top Enhancement requests from users:
No real surprises there, especially since not many details were provided. Still, interesting, and I would agree with most of them.
So, what can we expect in terms of new and improved functionality in the next version of SolidWorks? Here's some of the features and capabilities that might (and probably will) make it into the next release (whatever it is designated):
Many of these new features and enhancements will benefit most SolidWorks users and point to SolidWorks' continuing effort to make its software more stable and reliable, instead of just continuing to pile on stuff few customers need or use.
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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.
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