CAD, PLM and platform litmus test

CAD, PLM and platform litmus test


Platform. It is a very confusing term. What is platform and how to define it. Is it just about the size? Can I call software or business platform if it is big enough? Wikipedia article Platform gives a little help with references to a variety of things from computing platforms and Facebook to politics, art and automotive.

Platform is often used in a modern technological and business jargon. CIMdata recently introduced the new trend – platformization in PLM. I collected a set of “platform” marketing slides created by  analysts as well as CAD and PLM vendors. Navigate here to read more – Sweet Dreams about Product Innovation Platforms.

Solidworks 2016 platform

Some vendors are thinking about size and collection of features as something that can turn product into platform. Navigate to the Graphic Speak article SolidWorks unveils 2016 version. According to Gian Paolo Bassi, we should not look at Solidworks as a product anymore – it is a platform. The following passage gives you more details together with picture.

In the last couple of years, SolidWorks has expanded dramatically — the company has added on multiple modules. Rather than bulking up the core SolidWorks program, the company has been concentrating on building complementary modules for specific tasks. These modules are being built on Dassault’s 3DExperience technology, which is also at the core of Dassault’s enterprise products including Catia. At the company’s introduction of SolidWorks 2016, Bassi said they no longer look at Solidworks as a product, they look at SolidWorks as a platform. It would not be inaccurate to describe the Dassault/SolidWorks vision as becoming something of a continuum as products are built on the 3DExperience base.


Autodesk Fusion360 and Design, Make, Use platform

Last week, I was following Autodesk University #AU2015 in Las Vegas via twitter. Thanks to all my social media friends, twitter stream provided some “food to think” about Autodesk transformation. Just few month ago, Autodesk presented “Innovation platform” as a vision for Autodesk PLM360 during Accelerate 2015 conference in Boston. Navigate to my earlier blog to read more – Autodesk PLM360 and three years of innovation.

Few slides and messages from #AU2015, hinted on some changes happening at Autodesk.  Fusion 360 is a currently a centerpiece of “design, make, use” platform developed by Autodesk.


So, according to this message, Fusion360 is the platform for innovation.


So, what is a place of Autodesk PLM360 in this platform? Marketing slides are not aiming for precision, so I want to be very careful with my conclusions. However, the following slide can give you more food to think about future of PLM360 at Autodesk – Predictive Failure and Optimization and it is located somewhere between Make and Use segments of the chart. It might be an influence of recent acquisition of SeeControl and shifting focus to IoT.


What is my conclusion? The use of word “platform” is sometimes very confusing. In my view, platform is something that is used by others to develop products or businesses. From that standpoint, Apple iOS, Android, Microsoft Azure, AWS, Uber, Airbnb are platforms. In CAD and PLM world, products that used by other companies to develop applications and business services can be considered as platform. What can make Solidworks or Autodesk Fusion360 platform is the ability to provide services for others to develop application. Back in 1990s, I used AutoCAD to develop products sold to other customers. From that standpoint, AutoCAD was a platform and everything customers supposed to know is to run acad.exe to start their work.  It is hard to draw a solid line to differentiate between product and platform. So, software vendors will keep confusing us with their platform “visions”. However, here is a good thing – usually marketing use “platform” term to highlight the significance and to show the most important product in the middle of a circle or marketing slide. So, you can use it as a litmus paper to test what is important for vendor and where is current development focus and strategy. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Share This Post