I've had some angst about workstation vs. networked CAD.
When confronted with the concept at SolidWorks World 2010, I saw these as competing and mutually exclusive tools. I was delighted to exchange correspondence with SolidWorks about my panic. I've received some very thoughtful replies. It seems quite possible that resources are available to develop and support both kinds of CAD tools for at least the next several years.
I still have a concern about SolidWorks with regard to Dassault's vision.
In order to keep this post somewhat shorter, I've attached some background thoughts as separate documents. I'm sure Bernard and Jeff would find my fumbling attempts at strategic and future thinking to be naive and myopic. However, it wouldn't be surprising to learn that similar documents are circulating inside the decision maker's circle.
To the great benefit of its users, SolidWorks has developed and nurtured a community spirit. This support network includes the VARs, various web sites, bloggers, and in particular this discussion form. It is courageous to invite any and all to comment and criticize in such a public venue.
The SolidWorks culture extends in many dimensions - into the free access to the API, with the terrific support of their Gold Partners, promotion of Sustainability, distribution of Educational seats, as well as their welcoming attitude towards those who let the subscription service lapse.
Having Product Developers visit and spend time in the offices and factories of their customers is invaluable to improving the focus of the tool. The CSWP program, SolidWorks World events, the Enhancement Request system, and the SWUGN network are expenses that reflect a profound commitment to keeping the user experience first and foremost in the strategic planning of SolidWorks.
Compared to SW2002, SW2010 is extremely well tested. They are listening to us and making huge investments in an effort to release stable and reliable software.
My concern is that Dassault's hands-off attitude has shifted and is accelerating towards fully hands on. Over the past 4 years the tool has been increasingly rebranded to emphasize the ownership. As Vélizy-Villacoublay supplants Concord as the center of day-to-day decision making, will the value of my experience within the SolidWorks community play any significant role? I'm intending to include the experience of my peers in that question.
Of course Dassault cares about its customers. Just as much as SolidWorks cares about its customers.
However, I sense that Dassault's ideal customer is a multinational organization that demands massively collaborative functionality. I feel that I'm more of the ideal customer for SolidWorks - a participant in a small manufacturing network. The fact that my little network is one of hundreds of thousands is reflected in the number of seats that are installed.
The expense of maintaining this rather USA-centric culture will weigh heavily in the product planning over the next few years. When the the clouds roll forth, how shocked will the culture be?
One of the handouts that all attendees received at SolidWorks World 2010 was a magazine titled Time Compression. On page 36 there is an article by Gary Vasilash - "Market Research: Emotions Matter". To roughly summarize, he recommends consideration of how the customer will feel about themselves while using the product.
I've felt great about using SolidWorks since 1998. It allows me to appear to be a far more brilliant cadjockey than I actually am.
I'm resisting change. I'm demanding change. I just want the new thing to be the same as the old thing only different.