Specialized and Mainstream MCAD

Today Brad Holtz of Cyon Research pointed me to an interesting white paper published in 2007 titled “A Fresh Look at the Value Proposition of High-End Mechanical CAD“. This white paper is a followup to a similar one published back in 2003 and aims at determining whether the conclusions drawn in the 2003 white paper are still relevant four years on.

The authors believe that the terms “high-end” and “mid-range” no longer accurately describe the differentiation of the two classes of products and propose the terms “specialized” and “mainstream” instead. In the 2003 white paper the authors concluded that high-end MCAD systems differed from mid-range MCAD systems due to their strengths in the following categories:

  1. Integration with other enterprise software
  2. Knowledge-based engineering
  3. Advanced surface design
  4. Specialized design tools
  5. Large/complex project management tools
  6. Continuous software innovation
  7. High-value services

The 2007 white paper takes a closer look at each of these categories and discusses how things have changed in four years. Its quite an interesting read. The same can be said about its conclusions. Two years have passed since that white paper was published and I wonder how much more has changed.

In the light of the ongoing debate on capabilities and “relative unimportance” of CAD software and that of how and where they are used, I found this statement in the white paper particularly interesting:

Even industry experts hold on to outdated notions of the relative capabilty of the product classes. This is to be expected, as we have reached a point where it is beyond our capacity to determine the viability of solutions without being an expert user.

In a recent interview Autodesk CEO Carl Bass said something that I believe is quite profound. He said:

I think we need to step back and take a broader look to truly understand the impact that these tools have on making the world a better place and ignore the pettiness that replaces meaningful discussion about the capabilities and appropriateness of various engineering software products.

Software products are constantly changing. Unfortunately, some people and their antiquated opinions remain the same.