PHOENIX, AZ (SOLIDWORKS World 2015) — SOLIDWORKS' annual user meeting in January was Gian Paolo Bassi's first public appearance as CEO. The former CTO replaces Bertrand Sicot as the head of SOLIDWORKS and now gives the most popular MCAD program an Italian accent. The largely American users (5,500 of them assemble in Phoenix in the wake of the Super Bowl) have had a few years to get used to accents — first French and now Italian — since their beloved American leaders left the stage. They might still be missing founder Jon Hirschtick and chief dynamo John McEleney (both engineers, both American), but they don’t say it. I doubt if it's any big deal. The users are here to learn how to use SOLIDWORKS products better — and drink beer.
|CEO||Length in office|
|Jon McEleney||11 yrs 7 months|
|Jeff Ray||3 yrs 6 months|
|Bertrand Sicot||4 yrs 1 month|
What does the latest CEO bring to an office where the doors now revolve about every presidential election? After operation-centric Jeff Ray, and charming and ever-positive salesman Bertrand Sicot, Dassault's force-to-be-reckoned-with and chief visionary, Bernard Charlès, now sees fit to install a developer. And each successor seems to more embrace Dassault Systèmes.
The hugely likable, ever-approachable Gian Paolo impresses once again with his secure grasp of SOLIDWORKS, its products and its strategy. Deference to Dassault’s leader, Bernard Charlès, is provided. Gian Paolo does not even step on the stage until the avuncular Bernard has stamped his presence and allowed his almost-too-creative marketer, Monica Menghini, to again attempt to prove the importance of "experience" over product to an audience that, for the most part, continues to love the product.
Gian Paolo is just the guy to bring the SOLIDWORKS user to the new kernel, into the cloud, onto mobile devices — or whatever else the chief visionary desires. Gone is any real opposition to defend the userbase, to keep the status quo.
Enter SOLIDWORKS Industrial Design
Can the users in the audience relate to Industrial Design? Gian Paolo tells us that Industrial Design must be considered as part of a mechanical designer's purview. Shape sells. The old software (SOLIDWORKS desktop) didn't do sexy shapes. Good luck making anything curvy, unless you were a top-notch surface guy, unless you poured in blood and sweat.
Sure enough, top-notch surface guys are presented to us who swear by the new product. At the booth where Industrial Design is being shown, a beleaguered product manager, two months on the job, is trying to explain how Industrial Design will help them make the shapes they always wanted to make, that they should be making. A fair number come by, attracted by the leadup from the main stage. One is a from IntegrityWare, maker of Power Surfacing (Best of Show 2014), which has made a business adding subD modeling to SOLIDWORKS, which Industrial Design now offers. Will Industrial Design eat her lunch? I ask. She says not. Industrial Design does not even save to a SOLIDWORKS file. The models are not entirely compatible with SOLIDWORKS, she says. They have to undergo a translation or conversion.
Another user wonders about the cost, which the product manager does not know. It had only just been announced in a press Q&A. When they found out it costs $190/month, they all pause to reflect. Someone figured out that the total is $2,280 a year, every year. Their SOLIDWORKS software costs $4,000, but that is for ever.
It seems like Industrial Design will be a tough sell to the existing users, if this crowd at SOLIDWORKS is any indication. But then, what would you expect? Users, especially power users, tend to favor their current tools in which they have gained expertise. What remains to be seen is how well Industrial Design will be embraced by new users, or users of rival software, or if it will encourage those who still haven’t left the 2D world to use what, at first glance, appears to be much easier to use than SOLIDWORKS for surfaces.
It's probably too early to expect Industrial Designer to as capable as SOLIDWORKS with a surfacing add-on but it may easily justify its higher annual cost if it is able to make the creation of complex surfaces not so complex for the typical design engineer, rather than have to rely on a surfacing expert or hand off a design to an industrial engineer.