Direct Editing and the Future

Solid modelers like IronCAD, CoCreate, KeyCreator, etc. have been doing direct editing for quite a while. But somehow the entrance of SpaceClaim was the event that got every one’s attention, mine as well. Paul Grayson, Founder and CEO of Alibre, left a comment asking me, “You have been over the top on Direct Editing since SpaceClaim hit the market. I recall your prediction that SpaceClaim would get snapped up by someone for Billions! What happened to that?

I guess SpaceClaim did not (and probably will never) get bought because other CAD vendors decided to “make” instead of “buy”. Maybe the “billions” were the problem. We know that today they certainly are. I may have been wrong about other CAD vendors buying SpaceClaim or their technology. But I was not wrong about the reason for doing so – to add a direct editing solution to their products. Siemens, Dassault and now Autodesk are ample proof of that. I have said on this blog earlier that as far as direct editing is concerned PTC is not sitting idle, which is pretty much all that they will let me say for now.
I believe that direct editing is going to be an integral part of our future. Not just because I believe that it is a good thing. We have discussed its benefits and drawbacks over and over again. But there is another reason that many of you may not have realized. The purpose of this post is to highlight that reason.
If you were an exisiting Solid Edge 20 user (the version just before Synchronous Technology) and you installed Solid Edge ST, you would be given an option of using old history style modeling or direct editing. But if you installed Solid Edge ST on a computer without a previous version of Solid Edge, you would be able to do only direct editing. At least I could not easily find a way of doing history based modeling on a new license. This means that Siemens has already decided for new users how their future will look like. I guess Siemens may have wanted existing users to adopt direct editing as well, but they must have realized that switching to direct editing is not something that can be done in a day.
My point here is to draw attention to the myth that customers decide what the future holds for them. Sure they give feedback, report bugs and submit enhancement requests, some of which are considered and implemented in future versions. But ground breaking changes are almost never decided by customers. The Microsoft “ribbon” is a perfect example. Microsoft simply decided that the menu should be the past and the ribbon should be the future and shoved it down the throats of its customers.
I can go on giving you many such examples, but I think you get my point. Direct editing is an excellent thing. But that is not the only reason why I believe it is going to be the future.
In another comment Matt Lombard said, “CAD manufacturers have shown that they are willing to make the leap, but the other half of the market (customers) are not showing that propensity in significant numbers yet.” I believe that customers don’t need to make a leap. They will simply be airlifted and dropped on the other side.
So when I say things like SolidWorks and Alibre are “stuck in the past”, I do not mean to look down on the companies and their visions of the future. My opinions are based on my vision of what the future will look like, which seems to converge with the visions of the majority of CAD vendors.
Paul Grayson ended his comment by saying, “Why should Alibre, or SolidWorks for that matter, waste development resources on features that their customers are not asking for? Hopefully, we are not expected to write code solely based on what our competitors do and the opinions of industry pundits.
Maybe Paul has a point. It would be nice if Alibre and SolidWorks resisted the movement towards direct editing. At some point in the future, we would then be able to let customers determine which direction was the better one. Or maybe not. Because like I said above, the CAD vendors are taking decisions for the customers, and we already know which side of the fence most of them are on.