PTC World – The Speeches

I just got back to my hotel after attending PTC World, the annual PTC user meeting held at the Hyatt Regency in Mumbai. Truth be told, I do not know much about PTC or its products and this event was my first step towards the due diligence I promised myself to undertake. In April, after attending COFES in Arizona, I will be visiting the PTC headquarters at Needham, where I intend to meet more PTC employees, especially the technical people.

I was really looking forward to meeting Jim Heppelmann, PTC’s CTO (actually Jim’s title is Executive Vice President, Chief Product Office and Member of the Board of Directors). But unfortunately due to personal commitments, Jim could not make it to PTC World. Instead, they played a short video of him wherein he briefly touched upon the things he wanted to say. I hope I get a chance to meet him in Needham.

The day started with Rafiq Somani, PTC’s India Country Head, giving his opening remarks. Rafiq joined PTC as a marketing executive 13 years ago and rose to be the Country Head. He spent a major part of his speech on the ongoing recession. He was of the opinion that things are not all that bad, at least not in India. And I agree with him. Today the Times Of India reported that this year India will grow at 7.1% as opposed to the 9% that we were growing for the past couple of years. This is far better than zero or negative growth which is direction that most of the world is headed.

Next up was Peter Schmidt, Senior VicePresident – Emerging Geographies. Peter spent a good part of his speech explaining how PTC uses a process-centric approach, which means that its products are designed keeping the customer’s processes in mind. At that time, I didn’t quite understand what he meant, but later in the day, as I saw other presentations it all became more clear to me. He took the opportunity to take a dig at Dassault Systemes on the Airbus fiasco. He explained how after the goof up, EADS invited 5 companies to test a PLM benchmark to ensure that it would never happen again – Dassault, Siemens, Oracle, SAP and PTC. Apparently, Oracle and SAP crashed out early in the game and Siemens came close. But PTC passed the benchmark test and eventually bagged the contract. In Peter’s words, “nobody can beat Windchill and the PDS system from PTC at the moment if the customer does a deep technical investigation“.

And that pretty much sums up the general feeling of the people at PTC World, both PTC employees and customers. I spoke to many customers throughout the day. While some had reservations on pricing (this is India, remember), not a single one I spoke to bitched about the software. I also got the sense that customers were quite happy with the service as well. One could argue that unhappy users usually don’t come to such events. But consider this. PTC has about 2,200 customers in India. Thats 2,200 companies not licenses, and 500 people attended the Mumbai event. Assuming 500 more will attend the Delhi event on the 12th, you can do the math. At least in India I guess you can say that PTC appears to be keeping its customer happy.

Next up was Ashutosh Parasnis, the Managing Director of PTC India and the man in charge of the 1000 odd employees at PTC’s Pune office, a two hour drive from Mumbai. In fact, 20% of PTC’s global development force sits in the Pune office and Ashutosh has been leading them for the past 5 years. He filled in for Jim Heppelmann and delivered the keynote speech on PTC’s Technology Vision. He spent quite some time on PTC’s upcoming product called ProductPoint. ProductPoint is a lite version of Windchill, PTC’s PLM solution, and is based on Microsoft’s SharePoint. It does not replace WindChill, and is being targetted at customers that have 3 to 5 licenses of Pro/E, in his words “the kind of people who find Windchill too overwhelming”. This will allow them to work effectively with users of Windchill, and it can be later upgraded to WindChill itself. Apparently there was a “phenomenol response” to ProductPoint from beta customers who are already wanting to order even though the product is not yet launched.

Ashutosh let us know about the new Customer Visit Center in Pune (the third after the ones in Needham and Shangai) where customers can directly interact with R&D and Technical Support staff. He announced that Pro/E WildFire 5.0 is expected to be launched in June 2009. According to him, the product is ready but the launch has been intentionally delayed because PTC has decided to wait for ProductPoint and launch both simultaneously. He also mentioned that they have shaken the Pro/E product mix a little. The base version (Foundation XE) will now come with more features, stuff that was part of the modules of the higher versions.

Regarding Windchill, he reported that WindChill was gaining market share and displacing the competition. Later, in a private conversation with me, he laughed at how people called Windchill “vaporware” when it was first launched. Ashutosh also mentioned to me about PTC’s intention to unify the GUI’s of their products with the Microsoft Ribbon interface. ProductPoint has already inherited the ribbon from Microsoft SharePoint, on which it is based and other products could be “ribbonized” sooner than later.

It’s past midnight and I think I will crash out for the night. Watch this space. Today I learnt a little more about PTC, its people and its products and I hope to write a little more about them. There is also another thing I learnt about the company. PTC is not very blogger friendly. I had to fly my sorry ass 600 kms from Goa to Mumbai and park it in a hotel at my own cost for two nights. And tommorow I fly it back to Goa.