Jeff Ray Clarifies SolidWorks Stand On The Cloud

In January this year, SolidWorks decided that it was time to tell their users about the work they were doing regarding CAD of the Cloud which was probably a good thing to do. What I thought was unwise was their decision to put out half baked information out there and then do absolutely nothing to reply to questions posed by their customers, partners and the media. This lead to people, myself including, reading between the lines and coming up with all sorts of conclusions, rightly or wrongly. Wherever I went and whoever I spoke to, the most common question that people asked me was “What do you make of this cloud thing that SolidWorks is doing?“. As if I was supposed to know more than they do.

In all this time, SolidWorks let the rumors and speculations run wild. Whether that was a wise thing to do or not, I leave it up to you do decide. In an earlier post titled, “The Deafening Silence From SolidWorks On The Cloud“, I wrote:

If the whole point of the deafening silence that followed the Cloud announcement at SolidWorks World 2010 was to create confusion and cast doubts on the future of SolidWorks, then the company achieved that with flying colors. If the point was to just get people talking about SolidWorks on the Cloud then they achieved that objective as well. Just that there are so many good things to talk about SolidWorks, quite frankly I don’t see the point in going through pains looking for negative press.

The main point of debate was whether SolidWorks would force their customers to move to the Cloud by removing the option of having a desktop installation like how it is today. There were a lot of statements made by SolidWorks people, some pointing in different directions. One of the most damning statements came from SolidWorks CEO Jeff Ray when Ralph Grabowski asked him whether the Cloud version of SolidWorks would be the only version in the future. Jeff replied, “When the pain of the status quo becomes greater than changing, then they will.

Statements like these, especially when they were not followed up clarifications, were music to the ears of SolidWorks competitors. At first they were quiet and adopted a wait and watch approach. Then later, some started becoming more vocal about their contrary view towards the Cloud. See “PTC states its agnostic on the cult of CAD-on-the-cloud” on the DEVELOP3D blog. Today Karsten Newbury, SVP and General Manager of Velocity Series at Siemens PLM, left a comment on my blog stating:

“We currently have no plans for “pushing” our Solid Edge users to the cloud. In my view cloud technology is just that: technology. The main question really is how we as software providers can drive productivity and ease of use enhancements for our customers… [snip]… Of course we don’t mind SolidWorks talking about the cloud and scaring their users. 😉 Seriously, maybe this reminds folks that there is a great CAD alternative in the market (Solid Edge), which we (Siemens, UGS, …) honestly just haven’t marketed well in the past (working on that, but that’s a separate story).”

Some readers of this blog who happen to be long standing SolidWorks users have publicly stated that they are not going to renew their SolidWorks subscriptions. Others have mentioned similar intentions in private email conversations that I have had with them. So I know for a fact that all this has had some negative impact on the SolidWorks customer base. And I believe SolidWorks has begun to realize that because Jeff Ray wrote a piece on the SolidWorks blog the other day titled “Following up on announcements we made at SolidWorks World 2010“. If you are a SolidWorks user, I suggest you read that post in its entirety. I believe that blog post is eight month late. But nevertheless its there now.

Jeff talks about the questions that people have been asking him during the past eight months and answers them in his post. In my opinion, this is the most important one:

“People are asking if the introduction of cloud applications means the end of installed software. Rest assured—moving resources online is not an “either/or” decision. In Anaheim, we committed to supporting three platforms—the desktop, online, and mobile devices. We will continue to offer locally-installed desktop CAD, data management and validation solutions, and will allow our customers to move online only when they are ready.”

Since I was one of the people drawing conclusions from the various vague comments coming from SolidWorks for the past eight months, I think I have a responsibility to my readers to point them to this clarification by Jeff Ray, which is why I have written this post.