Change At SolidWorks

When I saw this thread started by Sean Dotson at MCADForums to discuss the shit storm that erupted on Twitter yesterday after I posted my article “The Dassault Systemes Cloud Revolution Has Begun“, it finally hit me why people were getting all paranoid about what I had written. Sean writes in his post, “Deelip claims the move to ‘cloud’ only CAD from Solidworks is coming soon.” I never used the word “soon” at all. In fact, I never used any reference to time except quoting Matthew West’s “some period of time”. Neither Jeff Ray nor Matthew West ever gave a time frame. They just said that it would happen, that’s all. Somehow the people getting paranoid about losing their desktop version of SolidWorks have assumed that it is going to happen in the next one of two years and are making all kinds of noises regarding internet connectivity problems that they are facing and how their businesses and those of their customers work today. That’s crazy. Apparently Sean and others found a problem with the “tone” of my post. Well, that’s just the way I write. I guess some people are used to reading stuff put forth in a more milder way (see this masterpiece comment by Josh Mings). I don’t believe I can ever bring myself to write something like that. 😉

But keeping all this tone stuff aside for a moment, let me explain why I think that the desktop version of SolidWorks is most probably going away. Call this scare mongering it you want. I am simply going to call it as I see it. SolidWorks may need explain this in a “nicer” way because they probably don’t want to scare the crap out of their customers, which judging by the reaction my post got, maybe a wise thing to do. I don’t have that problem.

Common sense tells me that SolidWorks will find it very hard to maintain and continue to develop two flavors of SolidWorks (desktop and cloud) till kingdom come, unless they can come up with some kind of a common software architecture that works on desktop and cloud. Besides probably doubling their development cost, they also need to pay for the cost of the cloud infrastructure on which they intend to offer their services. These costs are completely new and did not exist in their older business model. On top of all this, SolidWorks is claiming that the cloud will be cheaper to use than the desktop version. So someone please help me understand this. How can customers end up paying SolidWorks lesser while SolidWorks ends up spending much more than what they are spending today and yet come up with a larger profit margin. The only way I see that happenning is if they start selling SolidWorks at Walmart and get those kind of numbers.

Besides, this SolidWorks cloud stuff is not a tiny labs project that a few people in the company are fiddling around with in their free time. This is a major change in the business model of the company. Jeff Ray likened it to standing in the middle of a bridge and setting fire to one end to signify that there was no turning back. I don’t believe Bernard Charles showed up at SolidWorks World 2010 to promote some experiment that could be simply thrown away. Clearly this is the direction that the company wants to head. And why not? As a developer myself, I am absolutely overjoyed at the prospect of CAD on the Cloud. Software piracy is killed overnight. I do not have to take the trouble of maintaining and supporting customers using a software years old. Everyone pays me regularly. In one swoop this new business model solves a bunch of my problems. So I believe that most  probably SolidWorks is not going to go through all this trouble and still continue to give users the option doing things the old way forever. Of course, they will give their customers sufficient time to make the switch. Jeff Ray was very clear about that when he said that customers will decide when they will move to the cloud. But if they keep the desktop option open forever, most users are going to stick to the old way. Why? Because the old way works for them. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.

Personally I feel that even if all the cloud infrastructure and internet connectivity problems were solved today, only a handful of people would adopt it. The kind of people who immediately download the latest service pack or early visibility software and play with it – the early adopters. We know that the bulk of users are running a software version two or three years old and most of them wait for two or three service packs to be released before they hesitantly install a new version of the software. They have good reasons for doing that. But that’s not my point. My point is that if you give users the option to do it the old way, they most probably will. That is why in my post I reminded users that the success or failure of the revolution depends largely on their participation.

Some may call this promoting FUD. Yes, change is usually accompanied with fear, uncertainty and doubt. And change is what is happening at SolidWorks. I am just calling this as I see it, that’s all. You may or may not agree with my tone. And that’s perfectly fine with me.

  • This discussion reminds me of the late 1980s when I worked at Generic CADD. We had customers that balked at the idea of getting an email account. They didn’t see a need to upgrade, their PC and their CADD were plenty enough automation. What good was connectivity? (This was before the Web, of course.) Hey, check out http://www.vektorrum.com … finally live!

  • sdotson

    Thanks for the clarification Deelip. Indeed you did not say “soon”. I attributed that word to you and you did not use it. However I (and others) found the tone of your article to be a bit alarmist. Hence the use of the word “soon”.

    Furthermore those on Twitter who you say were “getting paranoid about losing their desktop version of SolidWorks have assumed that it is going to happen in the next one of two years and are making all kinds of noises regarding internet connectivity problems that they are facing and how their businesses and those of their customers work today” were in fact NOT paranoid.

    They (and I) were arguing that technical problems that currently exist will prevent SWX from going to a cloud only licensing structure. We (I) argued that this is a NON issue. We are the opposite of paranoid.

    I think this is where the confusion sets in. You took this (for whatever reason) to mean that we were afraid that it was coming soon, when in fact we were telling you it's NOT.

  • fcsuper

    Piracy may disappear with cloud applications, but it will be replaced by identity theft. No security system in plane can completely protect users from whole accounts being stolen via phished, farmed or trojaned passwords. Just look at the mess in the US consumer credit industry right now. Identity theft is so common place, the banks don't even flinch when you report that you've been victimized. Consumers are protected by insurance. IP lost from identity theft cannot be recovered by any means.

  • chad

    If you wish you could use “the cloud” on SW servers or you could have your own local cloud. When you feel comfortable with moving you local cloud to “the cloud” you could if you wish. It's simply going to be this simple. I seriously doubt solidworks has not already taken this into consideration. I think you will lose some functionality with a local intranet cloud but it will solve the IP problem. I'm sorry if I see this as non trivial.

  • Phil

    Hmmmmm. Could this be Solidworks big chance to drop Parasolid, and switch to ACIS. That shoe has been hanging in mid-air ever since Dassault bought Spatial in 2000. Maybe it will finally drop?

  • SolidWorks V6 (the cloud app demoed at SolidWorks World 2010) is “allegedly” using the CATIA kernel.

  • One could argue that IP lost by any means (not just identity theft) cannot be recovered by any means.

  • “… unless they can come up with some kind of a common software architecture that works on desktop and cloud.”

    hmmmm, now would you look at that. No need for 'two flavors' when the desktop app is the cloud app.

  • The core technology like the modeling kernel will obviously be the same. But that's just the skeleton. There's a lot more meat to it. I have not ported a desktop app to a cloud app before. So I don't know for sure. Just speculating as usual 😉

    It probably depends on the kind of client application that the user has to run on his device. How much they keep in it and how much they take to the cloud. In the desktop app, everything stays on the desktop. If they simply make the desktop app as the client app connected to the cloud (which is what I think you are suggesting) then they lose half the benefits of the cloud. I mean you would need to download gigs of software every time they update something. You would not be able to use it on a Mac, unless they actually bite the bullet and create a native Mac client. And so on and so forth.

  • Matt Lombard

    This reminds me of when all the CAD salesmen would tell you that their product would eliminate paper drawings. CAD vendors are again having wet dreams about pawning this off on users regardless of the users needs. It will probably have the same result. Some users are indeed successful without paper or even 2D, and some are not. One size does not fit all.

  • Phil

    Even more to ponder. Now it's a migration path to move high end SW users/data directly to V6? A good way to reduce development staff/costs by combining R&D efforts? Or just an evil plot to borg the cad world?

  • Now that Dassault Systemes has paid a visit to SolidWorks, I think that it is a given that SolidWorks, cloud or otherwise, is going to dump Parasolid. Actually, it should have been done years ago. All this is coming together nicely now – ENOVIA V6 running on the cloud being tied to SolidWorks V6 running on the cloud and desktop. It all makes perfect sense.

  • Amirtharaj

    SolidWorks is pioneer to adopt new technology. After few year all the other CAD software also will copy the same technology and they talk big at that time. It is happening in CAD history so many decades. This debate is useless..