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.