CAD cold wars and future competitive frontiers

CAD cold wars and future competitive frontiers


Earlier this week, Autodesk and Siemens announced a strategic agreement that will allow to their product share data. You can read press releases from Siemens PLM and Autodesk. article Cold War Over? Autodesk and Siemens Sign Interoperability Agreement by Roopinder Tara can give you a perspective on a historical view of competition between CAD vendors over the control of file formats as well as speaking about who is still defending CAD formats.

The following summary outlines why such top-level agreements are important:

A pact at a high level between companies means that their people can now work in a cooperative spirit with their counterparts. Software toolkits will be shared among development teams. Companies will be able to buy each other’s software with the intent of making them work together.

Contrast this to software companies sneaking around, acquiring their rival’s software under the cover of night and assumed names. The dreaded end-user license agreement (EULA) comes with enough barriers to prevent the use of software for nefarious purpose—such as communicating with the enemy.

Now, with the threat of retribution lifted, as well as with the top-level directive to play nice with each other, the parties in these interoperability agreements are now free to serve up each other’s data formats.

So, cold war between CAD enemies about controlling CAD format is coming to the end. This is an absolutely good news for customers who suffered from lack of interoperability. At the same time, it would be naive to think that CAD companies won’t compete in the future. It made me think about how such high-level agreements can impact engineering and manufacturing software status quo.

Converter Business

As a result of competition between CAD formats, the land of converters was discovered by multiple partners developing integration and doing reverse engineering of existing formats. I guess, developing converters will be easier now. But it can question long term sustainability of these businesses as well as the value proposition it brings to users. CAD conversation can potentially become part of standard CAD functionality. Still the same work needs to be done for CAD systems, but differently.

Future CAD / PLM competition frontiers

It sounds like CAD companies are not interested to defend CAD formats and ready to be open and collaborate to make data share easier. Good news for customers. But it will probably move the competitive frontier to some other places. I think, new technologies such as cloud and mobile together with platform vision made vendors to change their strategies. In the file-based environment, customers took responsibility to store and manage files, to send these files to customers and share information. In a current cloud-mobile eco-system, the significance of file is diminished. Software vendors are moving to subscriptions and products are gravitating towards platforms providing access to the information transparently via browsers and mobile apps.

What is my conclusion? Technologies and business models are transforming competition. CAD and PLM vendors are moving towards cloud platforms and subscriptions. In the land of ubiquitous information access, new platforms should have a possibility to provide an easier access to the information. These systems cannot rely on a file-converter business providing solution to customers to transform one CAD file to another. In my view, the current move will have a positive impact on state of data openness in engineering and manufacturing software. At the same time, it will raise more questions about infrastructure integration and cross platform service re-use. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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