February 27, 2012
SolidWorks World 2012: The Road Ahead To The Next Platform
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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SolidWork’s annual user/reseller/partner conference is always an event we enjoy attending because of the people we reconnect with, as well as the news and information that we gather. This year’s edition in San Diego was no exception.

This year’s event marked SolidWorks 2012 as the twentieth version of SolidWorks, with over 5,600 from 33 countries in attendance.

Before any of the “official” events started, we got a chance to sit down and speak with Bertrand Sicot, SolidWorks’ CEO.

MC: How did 2011 treat SolidWorks?

“We had a good year. This tells us that the CAD industry is coming back and our customers are investing in our products to develop new projects. The engineering departments that we deal with are good indicators, because they provide information of what will be happening 6-12 months into the future from a company-wide perspective. We enjoyed strong growth worldwide in 2011, except for Europe, because of its economic difficulties.”

MC: Do you have a theme for 2012?

“The main theme would be to continue our success and to do that we need to maintain the culture that has been created over the years at SolidWorks. By that I mean we need to continue to work together encouraging teamwork, and continue to be user-driven with a focus on the user experience. Maintaining a positive corporate culture is tougher than the technology side, but just as vital for continued success.”

“Another theme for 2012 will be our continued promotion and commitment to the SolidWorks user community. We strive to make it even more multi-faceted and everything that the SolidWorks user is looking for – not just raw information, but a resource for connecting with and exchanging ideas with others in the SolidWorks community.”

“Beyond 2012, you will hear us talk more about what is beyond PLM – 3D experience. More to come on that later.”

MC: What are your thoughts on cloud computing and mobile platforms?

“We [SolidWorks and Dassault Systemes] don’t consider the cloud dead, but it is not our focus because too many of our customers are concerned about IP security issues. We don’t want to go that direction just because some competitors are doing so for the ‘me too’ factor. However, we are seriously considering online solutions for mobility and collaboration purposes. We have big plans in the works for mobile apps in the future. We learned a lot from the mistakes made with nFuze and will re-launch it, as well. ”

“We may be taking more time with our mobile apps, but we want to get it right. Mobile apps are not just a checklist item for us just to say we have some. We would rather be a little late to market than come out with something that is wrong and needs to be fixed.”

MC: How is SolidWorks fitting into the Dassault Systemes family along with CATIA, ENOVIA, SIMULIA, etc?

“We continue to be better integrated in Dassult with each release, but the biggest change will come with the V6 release [of SolidWorks]. Keep in mind, though, that SolidWorks as a brand accounts for approximately 20% of Dassault Systemes’ overall revenue.”

MC: How much competition is there between a potential (high end) SolidWorks customer and a potential (low end) CATIA customer?

“Looking back, in 1997, Dassault Systemes did not just buy SolidWorks as a product. Rather, Dassault bought SolidWorks’ indirect sales channel and a way to go to market. SolidWorks appeals to a mass market and we are comfortable with that market and our price points.”

“SolidWorks, which is design centric, and CATIA, which is more process centric, have specific customers. We see only about a 5% competitive cross-over between the two technologies. This minimal cross-over is the primary reason for not having a native CATIA interface and data exchange with SolidWorks.”

MC: What about SolidWorks and PLM

“It is not my dream. I want SolidWorks to continue to be known as the company that changed the way people design in 3D. We will continue to do what we do best. It’s both exciting and scary as we start to transition to our next-generation CAD platform.”

Some of the more interesting things we saw and heard during the course of SolidWorks World 2012 included:
  • SolidWorks has certified over 50,000 of its users at three levels – CSWA, CSWP, and CSWE.
  • There is a difference between efficiency and effectiveness.
  • We are striving to make 3D a universal language.
  • “The best ideas come from the living room, not the boardroom. Make invention accessible.” – Ben Kaufman,
  • “Solidworks 2013 will have the Parasolid geometric kernel, that will not change.” –Fielder Hiss
  • DraftSight, SolidWorks’ 2D tool, has had more than 2,000,000 downloads.
  • “Collaborative design is all about community + technology = expert team.”
  • There is a huge difference between imitation and innovation.
  • “We have 500,000 commercial licenses out of a total addressable market that we estimate to be 4.5 million, so we still have a lot to do with this huge opportunity” – Bertrand Sicot
  • Total number of SolidWorks users is 1.7 million – the same number of users as match.com.
  • “When you build a team, treat everyone equally.”
  • “Social capabilities are key aspects of SolidWorks going forward.”
  • “Design by committee does not work” – Tony Fadell,
  • The cool new Nest thermostat is more like a smart phone than an on/off switch, and is designed for consumers, not contractors.
  • “The SolidWorks space is between blue collar and white collar, with a willingness to get dirty while using brain and hands” – Mike Rowe
  • “We ALL invent.”

  • SolidWorks 2013 was briefly introduced with some incremental feature upgrades and additions, but only incremental, not too much that we considered monumental. However, they will make life easier for everyday users. The change that did catch our attention, though, was compatibility between versions. Granted, compatibility will only go from SolidWorks 2012 SP5 to 2013, but it is a start, and it won’t force you to upgrade if you don’t want or need to. So, you better have a current maintenance agreement to take advantage of it.

    Finally, and again, we heard (from several impeccable sources) that the future platform for SolidWorks will indeed be called “SolidWorks V6,” and will consist of several products. Admittedly, and for obvious reasons, details on V6 are being closely held to the chest, but for our purposes, that’s when the real excitement begins.

    In the near future we’ll discuss more product-specific things we learned at SolidWorks World, from both SolidWorks and some its partners, because that’s where the action is for us.

    Also, check the MCADCafe.com site for videos we recorded at SolidWorks World 2012 of SolidWorks partners and direct employees.

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    -- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.


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