CAD user unhappiness and new business models

CAD user unhappiness and new business models article – 4 Things Users Hate Most About Their CAD Systems came to my reading list over the weekend. Take a look and draw your opinion. Article is touching some pain points CAD users might experience based on the survey of almost 230 product development professionals.

According to the article, The Top Four Things Users Hate About Their CAD Systems:

1- The cost of ownership is too high.

2- It is difficult to import and export files.

3- It is too difficult to use.

4- It is too difficult to find employees with experience in the CAD software that we use.

If users are unhappy, then what can be done to bring something different to unset existing CAD companies from their more or less loyal customer base.

It made me think about cost or ownership as a potential place to make a change. 3 other “unhappiness” might sound interesting, but in fact are very hard to change. The control over #4 is hard to change in a short period of time. Interoperability is possible, but it takes “two to tango” and vendors might not to collaborate in order to be replaced. Although difficulties to use might be a real problem, to change it probably even harder – after all simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

So, to control cost or change business model can be a real option. Which leads to the discussion about new business models. As a starting point, I’d suggest the following slide I captured during one of presentations made by Onshape – The Golden Years of CAD few years ago:

I found different data point about AutoCAD version 1.0 price on AutoCAD Trivia Quiz: In the Beginning about AutoCAD price: Original list price of AutoCAD 1.0: US$1,000.00. Even $5,000 would be a huge drop from UNIX based 3D / 2D drafting packages such Computervision and others. $1K was no-brainer.

Let’s get back to the results of survey. Solidworks is coming almost problem-less with answers (1) sometimes, (2) rarely; (3) rarely; (4) none to rarely. Combining with the largest market share and mainstream adoption of Solidworks can lead to possible conclusion of relatively high level of satisfaction among Solidworks users.

Slide above is suggesting that 4x price difference between Pro-E and Solidworks and shift to the low cost platform (another 2-3x cost difference) made market to adopt Solidworks and establish current status quo. What can get them out of their comfortable position? Would it be technology? Business model or combination of both.

What is my conclusion? The trajectory over all years was to make software cheaper and easier accessible. AutoCAD made drawing table digital and cheap using PC platform. Pro-E introduced unique functionality but failed to realized Windows platform on time and was replaced by Solidworks (huge cost saving). Next opportunity seems to be laying between introducing software with unique functional capabilities or making current 3D CAD paradigm work for free or significantly cheaper. Last 10 years of software development created a generation of people believing in free software empowered by polyhedral business models. How such model can work in CAD / PLM space? How users can have free CAD software, manufacturing companies can pay by percentage (?) of their revenues and community of CAD developers can use it as a platform to build new stuff?  Which path CAD companies are going to choose? The future will unfold in front of our eyes in the next 3-5 years or maybe longer. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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