Things Are Getting Touchy (PLM Tablet User Experience Thoughts)

Do we need to kill a mouse? Josh Mings, author and founder at SolidSmack mentioned middle-mouse button wheel as one of the five best CAD related innovations of the last decade.

And I agree with this statement. However, do you like your iPhone? Alternatively, maybe you like your HP TouchSmart? What do you think about future user experience in the world that moving fast to the touch user experience?  Do you think we are going to see a massive shift in user experience with the introduction of touch screen devices and tablets?

At the time that whole world is preparing to the potential coming Apple’s announcement of the new tablet device, I decided to put some thoughts and analyze what potential it can bring to the people in the PLM eco-system.  Before going to analyze, take a look on the following video. Despite the fact, it is related to publishing market, I found it as the closest example to the world of 3D/CAD/PDM/PLM…

So, what do think? I’m sure you figured out some ideas that already had chance to see in CAD user experience, like SolidWorks mouse gestures. If you lately made some experience with 3DVIA Mobile, you can find some associations too.

However, I want to figure out some PLM organizational sweet-spots for such user experience:

1. Sales. What can be better than present something live and handy? The growing interest in iPhone applications is the simplest confirmation. We can see a growing amount of demo iPhone apps presenting content or even mockups of your product, ideas, etc. Be able to do the same with your users, show product look and feel, demonstrate features. I’m sure products like 3DVIA Composer from DS and similar publishing tools can be an ideal target to be presented on tablet devices.

2. Design review. It looks like tablet experience can be a good companion for collaborative work during design reviews and meetings. You don’t like people hiding behind screens of laptops and desktop monitors. It can be very cool to be able to have such a handy device to work on your current presentation.

3. Manufacturing shop-floor mobility. This is another opportunity. To have a mobile device of size bigger than PDA can open additional functions for people in the shop-floor to access different product and manufacturing related information. Operation instructions, documents – this is only the initial list of what can be used.

You can think, these are futuristic examples… Maybe, however, I’m pretty sure, our future will be much more touchy than today. However, the biggest challenge will be PLM applications. Take a look on today’s user experience. I think we are far from ideal and there is a long way towards new user experience and ideas to become real life.

Just my thoughts.
Best, Oleg


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  • You are right, PLM applications user experience is poor, compared to today’s technologies. Don’t know if tablets and touchy technologies will be useful changing that situation for PLM apps, I am sure the speed of the user interface is in question. Good ergonomics are usually based on appropriate process analysis and implementation, so I think simply introducing more ajax like behaviours should be a good first step.

  • Thanks, François. I agree, PLM needs to clean up a lot in applications. However, I think the tablet/touchy end-game can be an interesting driver to do so. Best, Oleg

  • Raymond A

    I think that PLM companies have demonstrated a poor track record of user friendliness and look forward to the point where application “skins” will take over. In my view, there will be some next generation portals that will have to rely on the functionality of the PLM tools (so they wont be replaced), but I don’t see evidence to make me think that the PLM providers will do much to move to a drastically new front end technology. If they want to focus R&D dollars on user experience it should be in the CAD environment. For PLM, they should leave the ergonomics to the people who already do that well and figure out the right marriage. Just a thought…..

  • Raymond, I’d not say “PLM companies” in this context. What are those companies? Do you have in your mind companies that are doing CAD and expanding to PLM? Do you mean ERP-PLM bundles? Do youthink about pure-PLM players? I think some of the companies have a good track for CAD, simulation, visualization and some other very cool stuff. I agree, some data management solutions look ugly, but this is not specific PLM problem. You can find similar examples in ERP, CRM and other segments of market… Don’t you think so? Best, Oleg

  • Cam Bickel

    The is at least the second go around for tablets. It will be interesting to see if they take off. I am not so sure. My rule is – touch my screen(s) and I break you fingers.

    Our CAD users are into space balls for 3D manipulation. Their main complaint is lack of support for these in the rest of the applications they use.

  • Cam, you are right. This is a second entrance for tablets. Previous one wasn’t successful. For the moment, my thinking is mostly because of these “strange pencils” you had to right on these tablets… I found also, interesting blog posts about tablet development back in 1994 – Best, Oleg

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