Who Exactly is Alibre a Threat To?

A reader commented offline on my recent discussions with Paul Grayson, the Founder and CEO of Alibre Design. He wrote, “Alibre just needs to stop thinking of themselves as The Threat, because by now this market positioning is sounding silly.

Here is what I think. No matter how much noise Alibre makes about people paying too much for mid-range MCAD systems like SolidWorks, Inventor and Solid Edge, they really do not wield enough power and influence so as to become a threat to these vendors. Why? Not just because people who could afford to shell out $5000 for a MCAD system are most probably going to be able to continue maintaining their seat. But because they have years of intellectual properly locked up inside proprietary file formats. Seriously, how often do you find people switching from one mid-range MCAD system to another?

I do believe Alibre is a threat, but mainly to Autodesk in so far as its AutoCAD 2D customers are concerned. These users are starting from scratch. Their 2D DWG files are as useless in Inventor as they are in Alibre Design. These people do not need all the bells and whistles of the $5000 Inventor right away. That’s why Autodesk found the need to come up with the $1000 badly crippled Inventor LT, a MCAD system that can only model parts, not assemblies. That’s also the reason why Autodesk is hurriedly adding more and more 3D capabilities to AutoCAD because they want their customers to stay in their fold and nudge them towards Inventor using Inventor LT as a stepping stone.

Each and every AutoCAD user who is also an Inventor LT prospect is also a prospect for Alibre. For approximately the same price of Inventor LT, you can get Alibre Design Expert which contains:

  1. Part Design
  2. Assembly Design
  3. 2D Drafting
  4. Sheet Metal Design
  5. Motion Simulation and Analysis
  6. FEA Analysis
  7. Standard Part Libraries
  8. Alibre Vault document, contact and process management
  9. Alibre CAM

How many AutoCAD 2D users will need all of this right away? Not many. Till now they were quite happy with drawing curves in 2D space. So say an AutoCAD user pays $197 and buys into Alibre Design Standard, starts using it and find that it does what he needs, which most probably it will. He ends up creating his intellectual property which starts getting locked into Alibre Design’s proprietary file formats. As time proceeds he upgrades to higher levels of Alibre Design and in the bargain creates more an more intellectual properly which makes it more and more difficult to jump ship.

This is precisely what happened when a whole bunch of people jumped ship from AutoCAD to SolidWorks. SolidWorks even eased the transition by offering AutoCAD users DWG editor, an AutoCAD clone so that they could still access their legacy data. SolidWorks customers didn’t sprout from the ground. They moved from something and mostly that something was AutoCAD.

It’s really as simple as that.

  • At one time, SolidWorks said that 300,000 of their users were formerly with AutoCAD — at a time when SW only had 350,000 in all.

  • Tony

    I also think they could do well by going after SpaceClaim's original target market: people who manipulate 3D, but typically aren't doing a lot of designing.

    For example, 3D models of PCBs (where the PCB design is created by an EDA program, and the components are STEP files downloaded from the vendors).