The Creo Product Strategy

Here is a picture I took at PlanetPTC Shanghai 2010.

Someone seeing this will get the impression that CoCreate has now become Creo Elements/Direct, Pro/ENGINEER has now become Creo Elements/Pro and ProductView has now become Creo Elements/View. While that is true, it is not the complete story, as I found out during my interviews with PTC executives at the conference.

There is a lot of confusion out there as to exactly what this whole Creo business is all about and why PTC felt the need to kill the Pro/ENGINEER, CoCreate and ProductView brands. There is a view that Creo is just a splitting and re-branding of PTC’s products. And the fact that PTC has released a new datecode of Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 5.0 with only a changed splash screen goes to solidify that view (see “Here Comes Creo Elements/Pro 5.0“). The reality is quite different.

As can be seen from the image above, PTC decided to simply change the names of the current products. The reason for doing so is to let PTC customers know that they are on the path to something. Exactly what has not been made very clear. This is what is going to happen. After about six months, there will be no Creo Elements/Pro. Instead there will be Creo [Something] 1.0. The “Something” is not yet decided upon, or so they tell me. For the sake of explanation I will call it Creo History, which signifies a history based parametric modeling application, pretty similar to what Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire is today. In fact, Creo History 1.0 will be the next version of Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 5.0. It will use PTC’s Granite modeling kernel. However, the application will be rearchitected, not rewritten. A rewrite involves starting things from scratch. The internal program structure, user interface, etc. of Creo History will merely be rearchitected and users and partners will be given a smooth upgrade path. For example, I am told that I will be able to port all my Pro/ENGINEER plug-ins built using Pro/TOOLKIT over to Creo History without much of a problem. Existing Pro/ENGINEER users will be able to smoothly upgrade to Creo History.

There will be another application called Creo [Something Else] 1.0, which I will call Creo Direct for now. This will be a direct modeling application. This is not Creo Elements/Direct. I will come to that later. Creo Direct will be an application using PTC’s Granite modeling kernel. Using this application users will be able to push and pull geometry around freely and send it back to Creo History, as was shown in the Creo launch video. So the direct modeling part of Creo Direct is not the CoCreate stuff. It is the Pro/ENGINEER stuff that PTC has been working on for some time now. If you remember I mentioned earlier on this blog that direct modeling was already present in Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 5.0. Just that it has been turned off. In Creo Direct it will be further refined and exposed to the user.

So this brings us to Creo Elements/Direct. Even after Creo Elements/Pro disappears after six months, Creo Elements/Direct will continue to live on. PTC will continue to develop it for some period of time. They didn’t tell me how for long. And frankly, I’m not sure they know either. Common sense dictates that they will want all current CoCreate users to make the switch to Creo Direct and retire Creo Elements/Direct as soon as they can, because there is really no point maintaining two different code bases which do basically the same thing. In fact, Creo Direct will do things better since it will be using the common data model as Creo History. I didn’t ask but I am assuming the same thing will happen to ProductView or Creo/Elements View as well.

I guess the whole point of changing the names of Pro/ENGINEER, CoCreate and ProductView at this point in time without really changing the software itself was to get customers accustomed to the Creo name and give them the idea that what they currently have is not going away. In the case of Pro/ENGINEER users it is true. I’m not sure I can say the same about CoCreate users. If I have got it wrong, someone from PTC please correct me.

Something else needs to be mentioned here. After Creo was announced one of the questions that was asked and was left unanswered by PTC was whether the Creo file format would be open or closed. If you remember, one of the claims that PTC made in their Project Lightning noise was that it was going to solve the interoperability problem. During my interviews with PTC executives, I posed this question and managed to get an answer. There will be parts of the Creo file format (which PTC calls chapters) that will be open. But the core geometry part involving Granite will be closed. This means that people will need to continue to reverse engineer the Creo file format like how they do now for Pro/ENGINEER. So Creo is PTC’s solution to its own interoperability problem, the one between Pro/ENGINEER and CoCreate, and not the solution to the interoperability problem of the CAD software industry as was made out to be. In fact, I am told that the whole concept of Creo started with PTC trying to solve the interoperability problem between Pro/ENGINEER and Creo. They took a step back and wondered what else could they fix and came up with this Creo strategy of breaking down their huge monolithic products into bite size chunks.

When speaking of bite size chunks, the question that comes to mind is how much they will cost. None of the PTC executives were ready to reveal their plans on pricing. But I did get one of them to say that there could be a Creo app that is around $1000. I am assuming that could be something like a visualization app with some feature like photo-realistic rendering or similar.

As regards the change in name, I am told that this was actually suggested by a PTC customer who was shown the new product strategy under NDA. After seeing the presentation he said, “You are not going to call this Pro/ENGINEER, right? Because this is nothing like the Pro/ENGINEER I know“. And that’s what got people at PTC wondering whether they needed to come up with a new brand name to signify the difference between their current offering and what they will be offering six months from now. The challenge for PTC is that on the one hand they want to show that there is new stuff coming which is so different that it warrants a change in name and at the same time they want to reassure their existing customers that the stuff that they are currently using is going to be there in the new stuff as well. It sounds a bit contradictory to me. That’s why they decided to have this intermediate “Elements” thing during the transition period to signify that Creo is built from the elements of Pro/ENGINEER, CoCreate and ProductView but at the same time is quite different from them. I’m not sure whether PTC has managed to convey this message effectively or not. But this was their intention.

I hope this goes to clear some of the confusion surrounding Creo.