The guard is changing. The future of 3D CAD is no longer the purview of a small number of CAD vendors who can tightly control access to 3D CAD technology. Take SolidWorks, for instance. They’ve been on the top of the heap for a while. They’ve had a good run since coming on strong back in 1995 when PTC was arrogantly holding court with Pro/ENGINEER at over $20,000 a seat. They thought they were invincible. The original team at SolidWorks had a great vision, to move 3D parametric CAD to the PC, reduce the price and make it easier to use with a Windows user interface. It worked. PTC is now an also-ran in CAD even though they’ve dropped their prices below that of SolidWorks.
For those who recall, PTC’s reaction to SolidWorks was to disdain it, point out its flaws and shortcomings; Pro/E was demonstrably superior, and it was clearly worth four or five times as much. PTC was all about controlling the customer and deigning to allow them the right to their technology. This wasn’t something just anyone could have, you had to pony up big: big in money for the initial license, big in time – and more money --- for training, and finally even more money for maintenance to get you new versions. Many of us probably also recall the stories of PTC salespeople going over the head of a manager who had refused to buy Pro/E to inform the hapless individual’s boss that his underling obviously didn’t understand the honor that was being conferred.
In the end, it wasn’t a feature battle, but more a battle of competing visions, a war of ideology. PTC was focused on extracting the most money they possibly could. SolidWorks was focused on expanding the market by making 3D available to more users, not necessarily converting users of Pro/ENGINEER to SolidWorks. They were competing against non-consumption, i.e., those who didn’t have 3D CAD.
So it is today with Alibre and SolidWorks. Alibre is all about making 3D CAD accessible to anyone and everyone, and building a business that can do so profitably. Yes, there are some that will retreat into a feature battle, claiming that SolidWorks has this or that feature and Alibre Design doesn’t. Sound familiar? Yes, SolidWorks has some more features than Alibre Design does. Guess what, CATIA has some more features than SolidWorks does. Big deal, think a little bigger. In the words of George Santayana, the Spanish-American philosopher, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Today most of the original SolidWorks team is gone. Their vision, which was laudable, is a thing of the past. A new CEO with marching orders to toe the Dassault line has been installed. Development has moved offshore to India. Dassault now actually refers to SolidWorks as the “Dassault Volume Channel.” This clearly spells out Dassault’s plans for SolidWorks. It’s not the company it used to be.
Alibre is the future of 3D CAD. If you are stuck on this feature or that, you are missing the forest for the trees. Consider what Alibre is well on the way to accomplishing: 3D CAD for everyone, not in words, as in “3D for All” from Dassault, but in reality, as in $1,000 or less for a license of Alibre Design. Aren’t we all better off now with the ubiquity of cell phones and color printers? Note: and soon to be 3D printers – see the 3D Systems announcement or our partnership. Clearly we are, and so will we all be when the barriers erected by the “old school” CAD vendors are removed. The choice is yours: a future characterized as the “Dassault Volume Channel” serving the demands of the Dassault quarterly earnings report, or a future where 3D is as common as a word processor or spreadsheet.
Oh, and I forgot to include Autodesk in the chart above. For them, slot this in somewhere around 1982--->