At SolidWorks World 2011 I sat down with the new CEO Bertrand Sicot and spoke to him about SolidWorks on the Cloud and the issues surrounding it.
Deelip: You made a very profound statement in your speech today when you said that it will never be an either or decision for your customers and that there will always be a desktop version of SolidWorks. I am assuming that this desktop version will be completely offline and will not be required to be connected to the Internet to access the data or anything else.
Bertrand: Yes. Just like it is today.
Deelip: And that will not be a Parasolid based application. It will be running on the new V6 platform.
Bertrand: Well yes. I would say that the technology will be whatever it is. But I’m a big believer that the market will remain on the desktop for a while or at least a part of it. Then users will move online or on the mobile or whatever they want to move to in time. Of course today mobile devices like the iPad really cannot do much in terms of graphical applications. But ten years from now things are going to be different.
Deelip: In my interview with Jeff Ray at DSCC last year he mentioned about a big divide in the company regarding whether to announce the cloud stuff at SolidWorks World 2010 or not. On which side were you?
Bertrand: You see, with my sales background I’m very close to the reality and close to the customers. I think it is good to make a statement when you have a clear plan to deliver something real to the market. So twelve months ago we said that we will have an application online. We called it SolidWorks Connect and it took us a little more than eight months to get it up and now it is called n!Fuse.
Deelip: That is fine. But you also showed solid modeling happening on the cloud. You actually caused a crash on one computer and showed us that the model was saved up to the last feature on another computer since the actual modeling was happening on the cloud and not on the client computers.
Bertrand: True. But please note that was a technology preview. I mean it is one thing to demonstrate feasibility. But then you need to work on delivering an application that could be used in production. So to answer your question, I was on the side of the people who wanted to make a statement at SolidWorks 2010 because that meant pushing people inside the company outside their comfort zone and making them work harder to find a solution. Otherwise you continue to do what you have been doing and one day you wake up and find that somebody has taken the risk that you should have taken back then. It is a good thing that we showed the technological preview. For the past 12 months we got a lot of feedback – technical as well as emotional. In the end it is not about the technology. It is about the user needs. To me if the customers are asking for a complete 3D application online then we will have it. But if it is only a technology to make buzz marketing then I am not interested. That’s why making the statement 12 months ago which resulted in the feedback that we got was very helpful. Because then you get the truth.
Deelip: So what is the feedback that you received from your customers in the past 12 months?
Bertrand: In the short term our customers are not looking for a full 3D CAD online application.
Deelip: I ask because after the announcement people like me started speculating about the future of the Windows version of SolidWorks and…
Bertrand: I read your recent article on SolidWorks V6. You nailed it. It is exactly that.
Deelip: Why was there complete silence from SolidWorks after the cloud announcement was made. I made several attempts to get statements and clarifications from SolidWorks executives on the burning issues surrounding this announcement. Only recently Jeff Ray and Austin O’Malley have started clarifying things on the SolidWorks blog.
Bertrand: I understand your concern. We had a lot of internal discussions about some options we had to consider. Some key decisions were not made at that time. So that was the reason we were not able to tell you. Now I think you have some clarity because we have taken decisions on some important things.
Deelip: I think I can see different things happening and things happening differently in your time as CEO of SolidWorks.
Bertrand: (smiles) Positively I hope.
Deelip: What is the one thing that you wish you could undo in the last one year?
Bertrand: Undo? I don’t think I want to undo anything.
Deelip: Are you sure?
Bertrand: (smiles) Well, how can I put this? I will not stay at the surface. I will ask and ask and ask questions and I need to be convinced. I’m a very pragmatic person. You will see. By pragmatic I mean I do need to see a use for things. Innovation for the sake of innovation is not something that I am interested in.
Deelip: I believe people are looking at you to give a direction to your company at least with regard to it’s messaging.
Bertrand: That’s exactly what I did this morning. And it was overdue. You know, on a personal note, I am a big believer that in life you have to be yourself. I am a genuine guy and you will get to know me in time. Life is all about people. It could be face to face or connected. But it is all about people.