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


  1. Hi Gal,

    Good article .. I know you probably have a different viewpoint today after 3 years.

    But one mistake in your article.

    IronCAD was also in the market place as the same time as SW. A much more productive solid modeling paradigm.

    Solidwork did one brilliant thing. They used Autocad "Perpetual Evaluaton" marketing. No restrictive licensing. Up until SW 2006 you could copy it and give it to your friends. Which all did freely.

    IronCAD put very restrictive licensing on their product over my objections and interest and sales stopped allowing Solidworks to almost become the solid modeling standard.

    I tried to explain to them most people will buy the software. No company would have non-licensed software in their company. Autodesk made sure of that with all of its very public law suites. Employees were coming to companies with SW experience helping the companies implement SW.

    There are some great products out there that failed to see this successful marketing scheme and have been put on the back shelves of CAD.

    IronCAD, SpaceClaim, ZW3D, Solid Edge, Inventor, etc. The high end programs do not have these problems, since the industry think they offer so much more. LOL

  2. Joe, thank you for the comment. When 3D eye roll out Trispective in 95 (later known as IronCAD) they made 3 major mistakes . EU price was too low (500$ ) to build a VAR channel. The software based on ACIS and the constrain manager was bad.