I know a lot of people think I’m crazy, but I’m not. My mother had me checked, as Sheldon Cooper says. People more level headed than me are now writing more about the abandonment of SolidWorks current product, and about real problems with the DS hail mary pass to the cloud, betting everything on one crazy blind toss into the ether.
There are a lot of end users and prospective users out there who still don’t have any idea about the severity with which the SolidWorks world is about to change. Even at CAD conferences I get asked if its really true that SolidWorks is going to change kernels. It’s true there is a way of looking at it where SW is not changing kernels. But that’s an incomplete story. Kernel change is not what this blog post is about, you can read about that in a lot of other places. In the end, SolidWorks is going to try to sell you a kernel change, and the new software would be more aptly named Catia Lite than SolidWorks [anything], because it will be built on Enovia V6, which is what Catia is built on.
The real point of this post is that SolidWorks may already be dead, and no one knows it. Jeff Ray was maybe a little too effective in letting the cat out of the bag that it was intended to be killed. By the time he said that publicly, it was already fait accompli. And I’m thinking that what appears to be a recent development of renewed interest in SolidWorks by employees looking like they are asking questions is not in fact a resurgence, like I originally thought (hoped), but indeed a preparation for burial – an embalming, possibly better seen as a “mummification”. Let me explain.
The reference to Jeff Ray “killing” SolidWorks is well documented across the web, and comes from Jeff actually discussing how to kill SolidWorks with a next-gen product before the competition did that for them. The next-gen product was intended to be this still-nameless development project referred to as alternately SolidWorks V6 or maybe more descriptively, Catia Lite. This was all public, and the only thing you can dispute about it is if he meant literally to kill SolidWorks, or if it were more of a metaphor for developing great stuff. In either case, Jeff was first “promoted” to a previously unknown position in France, and has since been promoted right out of the company. Or as we used to say in the Navy, “transferred to CivLant Command”.
Several people have commented on the lack of meaningful CAD-related development in recent versions of SolidWorks. There’s a lot of fluff, and little that interests guys like me. The most ambitious development projects in the last several years has certainly not been CAD or geometry related. The reason for that is not difficult to guess – they are working on something else. I don’t care what they say about the size of the development team, or the number of enhancements, the proof is in the pudding. Very few CAD or geometry related enhancements.
But in the last couple of weeks, I started to feel a little more optimistic. Don Van Zile, a guy who I had a lot of respect for as a user, turns up with a SolidWorks name badge and starts asking for pet peeves on the forum. Although skeptical that anything would come of it, I thought this was the most optimistic thing that I’ve seen from SolidWorks in a long time. I thought that maybe someone in France heard that customers weren’t crazy about moving their CAD to the cloud, and maybe they were hedging their bets somewhat and maybe reverting to develop the current SolidWorks a little more.
But no. That’s not what it is. If this were a real effort, they would have put some senior people in front of users to try to regain confidence. No one is doing that. They’ve got someone new and expendable. Nothing against Don, but Don is not controlling this situation. In fact, common consensus seems to say that SolidWorks is not controlling the situation.
I think that SolidWorks is simply interested in fixing up the software for long term storage. They want to really make it something to be proud of before switching it off. This is like Service Pack 5 for the entire SolidWorks software. Making the corpse look as good as possible before laying it to rest permanently. Embalming, mummification. Is this off-the-rails-crazy? Is it really? The future is the cloud, DS makes that clear. The desktop is going to vanish. They believe this. They are working to make it happen. The only people they have to convince are the people writing the checks.
Is it really possible that Dassault would really kill off SolidWorks? I didn’t think so originally, but the more time goes by, the more I think this is the way they are headed. I’d be willing to bet that development for CAD/geometry will continue to slow. It sounds stupid to a guy like me, but it looks like Dassault is really going to put the whole basket of eggs in the cloud. This will happen until they see a general downturn in DS mid-range money and someone yanks the reins from the suicidal maniac running the team off a cliff, or maybe I’m just dead wrong and they really win. I would guess they are headed for a PTC style implosion in a few years. I’m not sure if the Catia business is going to snuff it in the same way, throwing it all to NX. I don’t really follow that side of it well enough to have much opinion there.
Is it still reversible? Probably. I mean, it’s reversible until it isn’t. I would think they could recover from this sort of blunder until the general CAD public becomes aware. You can’t steer something this size, not quickly anyway. By the time you see concrete signs that there’s a problem, it’s already too late. If SW V6 ships next year, it might take a while for customers to understand that they are being pushed in that direction, and that the cost to move is going to be more than just maintenance.