Pro/ENGINEER and Direct Editing

Michael Campbell, SVP Product Management, Desktop Products of PTC left an interesting comment on an article on this blog (“Pro/ENGINEER: Old Is Gold”). He drew a distinction between PTC’s strategy and that of its competitors, Dassault and Siemens. According to Michael, “an important part of PTC’s strategy is to develop a single, scalable parametric CAD tool that can compete with SolidWorks and Solid Edge at the low end of the market, and CATIA and UG NX at the high end. No other CAD system can do that.” I guess he left out Inventor since Autodesk does not have a presence in the high end MCAD market.

But I want to discuss a larger issue here. The issue of direct editing and the relevance of Pro/ENGINEER in a world that is increasingly moving towards the “quick and easy” way of solid modeling. Well, I am not sure about the world, but most CAD vendors are definitely moving in that direction. Siemens is pushing Synchronous Technology in its low end (Solid Edge) and high end (NX) products. Dassault may be still trying to figure out what to do with its low end (SolidWorks) but has already crossed the bridge with its high end (CATIA V6). Autodesk is crossing the bridge with its Inventor Fusion, and coupled with its Digital Prototyping marketing strategy, it is getting ready to take a slice of the high end CAD market pie from Dassault, Siemens and PTC. SpaceClaim is sniffing around trying to make its presence felt. And then we already have existing CAD vendors like IronCAD, Kubotek and similar who were already on the other side to begin with.

I find it hard to believe that with all these CAD vendors betting their R&D and marketing dollars on direct editing systems, end users are going to resist and stand by their strict parametric modeling systems, especially since direct editing systems make solid modeling faster and easier. As it stands, the only large CAD software vendor who appears to be holding out is PTC. Sure they went ahead and bought CoCreate to add a direct modeling workhorse to their stable, but I seriously cannot see CoCreate standing up to CATIA V6 and NX. The fact that PTC bought CoCreate goes to reinforce my belief that PTC is not going to morph Pro/ENGINEER into a direct editing system, something that their top executives quite clearly told me at PTC World in Mumbai.

So where do you think PTC is headed with this strategy? Do they think that their customers really enjoy getting tangled in a history tree? Do they believe that Pro/ENGINEER users who want direct editing will move to CoCreate? Or is it that PTC wants to, but cannot cross the bridge, probably because of Pro/ENGINEER’s antiquated architecture and programming language?

Don’t get me wrong. The old lady is quite capable and may even get a makeover. But can she do the split?