Dassault Systemes Customer Conference 2011 – Day 2

Day 2 of the Dassault Systemes Customer Conference started with a general session, a majority of which was dedicated to the DS brands. Jeff Ray, EVP Geographic Operations, introduced the brands and then each brand’s CEO took the stage to showcase their products. SolidWorks CEO Bertrand Sicot was away in Japan and his brand was represented by Key Clayton, VP Sales Worldwide.

Here is a slide from the presentation of the ENOVIA CEO Andy Kalambi which shows all the DS brands closely tied together by the ENOVIA.

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After lunch I attended a session on CATIA where I hoped to learn more about Dassault Systemes plans for V6, especially since it has become a reality and is being used in production in some large accounts.

Earlier in the brand presentation CATIA CEO Etienne Driot said, “CATIA V6 is not CATIA V5 plus one. V6 adds a whole new dimension to CATIA.” This is what I learned about CATIA V6 today.

Firstly, Dassault Systemes will continue to support CATIA V5 till at least 2020. Yes, that another eight years. Not just that. They will also continue to develop it in sync with CATIA V6. This is because they want to let their customers make the transition from V5 to V6 on their own terms and at their own pace. CATIA V6 changes the way data is stored and shared and DS realizes that not everyone may want to upgrade at the same time.

This decision to develop CATIA V5 and V6 side by side comes with some real nice advantages. One of the features most requested by CATIA customers has been to be able to share their data effectively with users of previous versions of the software. By effectively I mean a V6 user should be able send his model to a V5 user and it should show up in V5 with all the features intact. The V5 user should be able to edit those features, add new ones and send it back to the V6 user with all the features intact. I actually saw a demo of this happening between CATIA V5 and V6 in the session. I hope to post a video sometime later today.

This needs some explanation, which is related to the reason why DS is continuing to develop V5 along with V6. The thing is V5 and V6 use the same modeling kernel. So if DS continues to develop V5 and V6 side by side, they will be able to add the new feature types or parameters to V5 as they add it to V6. This means that they need to release a version of V5 every time they release one for V6. That is precisely the plan. In fact, going forward the new CATIA V5 versions will be called CATIA V5-6R2012, the “5-6” denoting that it is paired with a corresponding V6 release.

So this way a company heavily invested in CATIA V5 can gently add V6 to their workflow without much disruption. The fact that DS will continue to develop V5 in sync with V6 will only give them the confidence that their investment is being taken care of. I think its brilliant.

This round tripping feature is going to be added to the next release of CATIA, the one called “CATIA V6R2012x”. I guess the V5 equivalent will be called “CATIA V5-6R2012x”. Here is a slide explaining the progressive transition from V5 to V6.

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I wonder what the other CAD vendors who have been predicting the end of CATIA’s dominance have to say about this master stroke. I also wonder what SolidWorks customers think about all this. How will all of this play out when SolidWorks V6 becomes a reality?