Proud SolidWorks Customers

Today Josh Mings wrote a piece on his blog titled “SolidWorks To Customers: You Are Not Entitled to Service Packs“. Basically SolidWorks is better enforcing its existing policy of not providing service packs to customers not on subscription.

This reminded me of my interview with Shaun Murphy, the Product Manager of the core SolidWorks product at SolidWorks World 2010. Among many things, I asked him what he thought about Alibre’s permanent price reduction of Alibre Design Standard to sub $100 levels. Towards the end of his reply, Shaun mentioned that there was pride associated with owning a seat of SolidWorks. This is what followed:

Deelip: Pride?

Shaun: Yes, users are proud to own a MCAD system like SolidWorks. There is something to it.

Deelip: Shaun, I really hope you take this the right way. I don’t see the pride in denying non-subscription customers access to service packs? Do you want your paying customers to pay you more for fixing your bugs as well? I am a software developer and do not charge my customers for bugs that they find and report to me, whether they are on subscription or not.

Shaun: When a customer purchases a subscription he gets a whole lot more than just bug fixes.

Deelip: I get that. But I do not believe that the fact that you allow customers to purchase SolidWorks without subscription and then do not give them fixes to bugs that they helped you find is something that you or they can be proud of.

Shaun: You raise a good point. I will get back to you on this issue.

Needless to say, Shaun never got back to me on the “good point” that I had raised. And frankly, I didn’t expect him to either. Because sooner than later, this issue will cease to exist. SolidWorks is going to shove all its proud customers on to the cloud (read this) and everyone will be on subscription. Problem solved.

On the contrary, Autodesk clearly distinguishes between new functionality and bug fixes. Service packs are meant for bug fixes, which is precisely what they contain and are free to download by all, irrespective of whether a customer is on subscription or not. New functionality is added to something called Subscription Advantage Packs which are available to customers on subscription only. For example, till recently the Inventor Fusion Change Manager add-in worked only on Inventor installations that had a particular Subscription Advantage Pack installed. SolidWorks can easily do the same. Just that they do not want to.

Is it just me or is anyone else getting the feeling that SolidWorks is slowly losing track of the one thing that made them what they are today – their “proud” customers.

  • Off-course you are pride for the reason your boss payes a lot of money so you get the best software.
    I don't think the people who pay for it are pride that they are being hold hostage by sw.

  • :-)

    As a former SolidWorks VAR employee, I could never understand only giving service packs to subscription customers. When a customer would purchase maintenance/subscription, they would receive the next version of the software, full access to tech support, and service packs. I was told they add new functionality to service packs, but in my opinion, this claim is mostly bogus. They would occasionally add a system option or document property, and activation was added in a service pack. However, I don’t remember any major features or functionality added in service packs. The service packs are for bug fixes and that is the developer’s responsibility. Service packs should be free for the major version(s) of SolidWorks you have purchased.

    Deelip, I agree. In my opinion, before I left my VAR position, I continued to notice that through SolidWorks business practices and decisions, the customer was gradually being left behind. SolidWorks makes a great product, and I hope I am wrong, but I have long surmised that they will eventually become the next ProE (lose king-of-the-mountain status, lose major market share, and then have a tough time recovering) if they don’t make some major changes in their business model.

  • I think SolidWorks is about the only software company to not provide bug fixes free. Even software companies as ruthless as Microsoft still have updates for Windows XP users.

    (The only other one I can think about is Infacta, who make the bulk email software I use; they charge after the first year, but the software is bug-free and doesn't need to be upgraded, so it doesn't matter in their case.)

  • Mook

    I agree with the sentiment of Deelip's post, but from a software developer standpoint, isn't it costly to maintain separate versions for bug fix service pack only releases while simultaneously maintaining separate development versions which have bug fixes + enhancements to functionality? It would seem to be much easier and streamlined to lump the bug fixes into the same version which is being enhanced. Software vendors have an obligation to take care of users who have reported bugs, but how to do this without incurring significant costs and delays by maintaining separate versions seems to be a balancing act.

  • SolidWorks Service Packs are a rip off. In the past 10 years, I've paid over $15,000 for their bug fixes. Crazy huh?

    You cannot add new Features to SolidWorks Service Packs. Why? Because if you were on Service Pack 0 and I was on Service Pack 05, we couldn't excahnge files!

    Devon Sowell

  • daveault

    Intersting reading today. I read your three with Racheal and then this one and the both gave me some thoughts. Evolution of cad and thinking of Synchronous which was not mentioned with Space Claim or Kubotek. Everything is evolutionary. The first critter to crawl out of the ocean and survive was however both evolutionary and revolutionary. The same basic platform in many ways with some additions and now a totally new animal. I tend to think of Synchronous or direct editing in this category considering the benefits I have from it.

    Then I read your post here on out of touch corporate management and the two become interelated for this SE user. I find myself with the best midrange, in my opinion and based on what I bought with my money, cad program out there. It is the first “large” market share ap that I know of to implement direct editing or ST. I really like what I can do here and while I would not say that I am proud to own it I am definitly happy to own it.

    Pride would come into play if perhaps I was part of a user community that was well known, gave me job mobility and contracting opportunities. Part of a community where when I mention what I used I would not have to explain what it is.

    Sw in spite of the current DS greed inspired stupidity decided long ago, as far as I can see, that it was imperative to build this community and to advertise and market aggressively their product. Today they still reap the benefits of being the most used mid range cad program because of this. It will be DS's effort to push customers in an extortionary fashion into ever higher never ending expenses that will end up killing their market share. Can you say cloud as in cloud of smoke from your burnt money?

    Now the problem at SE is like SW in that you have some other company pulling the strings and deciding how things are done. A few years ago SE had an active user community. The last SE only user convention was in Cincinnati and it had I believe around 600 actual users there. Then comes Siemens. Clueless for sure on what users wanted. Actually I fear it is it is worse than that and that they don't care what they want. Every publication related to cad from Nasa Tech Briefs to Desktop Engineering advertise specific products and even do so by name. Inventor, PTC, Solidworks, Space Claim etal in most every issue. SE users complain about no marketing and the comments about job mobility come up frequently at times. This is Siemens job to give their user community value beyond the program itself. If we can't find work as easily with SE as we could with SW then it is cause to stop and think about what we are doing. So now we plod allong with software we have no pride in but we do so because we believe it is the best for the money. Time passes and now Siemens sticks all the cad apps together into one monolithic user convention and we fast froward a few years. Last year there were out of the many tens of thousands of SE US Canada users alone only 37 in attendance. Siemens has clearly conveyed their lack of desire to support in any meaningfull way this SE community in any fashion and the proof is in the numbers. I hear to often that there is no money in the budget to promote SE or the community and I know that it's not the folks in Huntsville that are the problem. It is the bunch with Helmut that think so. I was told last September that straight from the top orders were given to change this, that Siemens was aware of this and was going to fix this community problem. Nothing so far. Well perhaps thats not quite true as if anything there are even fewer ads than before and heaven forbid if you mention anything by name. All they really seem to care about is PLM which like the cloud for DS is how they intend to get you wrapped up into something you can't get out of and will have to pay for forever.

    I am thinking of inventing a cad osmosis machine that will automatically filter out bad aps and let just the “good ones” in so that Siemens can buy it and grow market share and community without any public or corporate effort.

    The two largest mid range cad programs I think, as no one outside of hallowed corporate walls is privy to exact seat counts, both run by execs that are clueless about what users want and expect from them in what is supposed to be a two way street of benefits. I don't think pride is anywhere in the equation for both SE or SW users anymore.

    VX cadcam is going to introduce a direct modeler for V15 hopefully by this fall. They really don't have the money for an agressive ad campaign and I fear have at this time a user base in the US to small for a robust user community. Perhaps they will be the ones to benefit from SE and SW corporate blind spots as people with no pride look for the exits.

  • “Shaun: When a customer purchases a subscription he gets a whole lot more than just bug fixes.”

    A total fabrication, in my opinion. There are no new features in Service Packs.

    Devon Sowell

  • Hey Deelip, thanks. I agree with Shaun about pride, but the pride is what we get from what we create, not so much what we use to create it.

    Look, I do want SolidWorks to be an great program. It is in many respects and can be more without policies like the one they have. It's not even about the price, ya know. This could be a very simple fix. include bug fixes in the price of the product? I'm sure you consider that with your software as would any other software provider who includes updates does.

    In regards to the cloud, it's gotta be a different model. It's inherent that the program fixes are part of the cost of using software that you don't have to update yourself (just as with Google apps, 37signals product or the multitude of others.)

    At that point additional money for any subscription WILL have to be a “whole lot more”.