SolidWorks World 2010 (Day 1) – Interview with Shaun Murphy

I am attending SolidWorks World 2010 as press. I asked to interview a SolidWorks product manager and was given an appointment with Shaun Murphy. I had never met Shaun before and I don’t remember ever corresponding to him by email. So I was eager to meet him. This is a part of my interview with him.

Deelip: What is it that you do at SolidWorks?
Shaun: I am the Product Manager of the core SolidWorks CAD product. I work in the Marketing Department under Product Management.

Deelip: How did the recent PhotoWorks fiasco happen and why did it take such a long time to detect it?
Shaun: Well, it was a weird mixture of occurrences that managed to get through our testing system. We have since put measures in place so that such a thing never happens again. Having said that I am quite pleased at the way we responded. There are two ways to go about this. You can either play it down and hide it or come clean and inform everyone involved. We chose to do the latter.

Deelip: Could it even be possible to hide something this huge?
Shaun: Yes, and some companies do that.

Deelip: Do you believe SolidWorks has the potential to grow into a high-end MCAD system?
Shaun: For some time now SolidWorks has been running as an independent company free from Dassault Systemes. They have been doing their stuff and we have been doing ours. But now we are going to combine SolidWorks into the Dassault portfolio in a much closer way. So the scalability issue will no longer exist. You will hear more on this in our upcoming product announcement.

Deelip: So does this mean that SolidWorks will read and write CATIA files? Why has that not happened all this time? I know that it is not a technical problem because I have licensed Dassault’s libraries and used them to make SolidWorks read and write CATIA files.
Shaun: You are right. This is not a technical problem. Rather it is a business one. One that will be solved in the near future. We are working on it.

Deelip: When that happens will the data exchange be restricted to reading and writing dumb geometry only? Or will users be able to exchange features and history as well?
Shaun: I cannot disclose details now. All I can say is that at the very least exchange of dumb geometry will be possible.

Deelip: Since you mentioned combining SolidWorks into the Dassault Systems portfolio, does it mean that a future version of SolidWorks will use CATIA’s V6 modeling kernel and not Parasolid?
Shaun: I really cannot disclose more about our integration plans. I suggest that you wait for our upcoming announcement. I am not authorized to divulge any information regarding this. I hope you understand.

Deelip: What is the technical problem is implementing backward version compatibility?
Shaun: Well, this is more of a business problem than a technical one.

Deelip: I intend to quote you on this. This is the first time a MCAD vendor has accepted that backward version compatibility is a business problem.
Shaun: (Laughs) Just see that you don’t get me fired. We are working on backward compatibility. As you can understand, there are some technical issues but we hope to find solutions to them.

Deelip: There have been reports of Alibre permanently offering Alibre Design Standard for $99. What do you have to say about that?
Shaun: Frankly I don’t know how is it even possible to sell something like a MCAD system at $99. But there is another thing. It’s like owning a car. Even the most simple car has four wheels and can takes you from Point A to Point B.  So why do people buy more powerful and expensive cars? Everything is not about price versus functionality. There are other factors at play. Things like support, a vibrant reseller channel and even pride.

Deelip: Pride?
Shaun: Yes, users are proud to own a MCAD system like SolidWorks. There is something to it.

Deelip: Shaun, I really hope you take this the right way. I don’t see the pride in denying non-subscription customers access to service packs? Do you want your paying customers to pay you more for fixing your bugs as well? I am a software developer and do not charge my customers for bugs that they find and report to me, whether they are on subscription or not.
Shaun: When a customer purchases a subscription he gets a whole lot more than just bug fixes.

Deelip: I get that. But I do not believe that the fact that you allow customers to purchase SolidWorks without subscription and then do not give them fixes to bugs that they helped you find is something that you or they can be proud of.
Shaun: You raise a good point. I will get back to you on this issue.

Deelip: Do you believe SolidWorks will ever run as a service?
Shaun: Technology is moving in that direction. You will hear more about this in our upcoming product announcement.

There was a lot more that I wanted to discuss with Shaun. But I ran out of time.

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