Killing me (Solidworks) slowly

Killing me (Solidworks) slowly

The predict the future is an ungrateful business. The articles predicting death or disruption are coming from time to time. It has been almost 10 years ago when “killing Solidworks” topic came first. Over the weekend, my attention was caught by Moshe Baum’s – The (CAD) world after Solidworks article.

It made me think about enterprise SaaS business, Solidworks trajectory and the trajectories of new CAD systems aiming to replace Solidworks.

The world around us is changing fast. Just think about 10+ years we lived in the world with iPhone, Facebook was not as dominant as today and we debated if companies will agree in the future to use cloud software at all. Fast forward in 2019 and we can see that enterprise SaaS revenue hits $100B run rate.

At the same time, CAD is one of the slowest changing space. Almost 10 years ago, Develop3D Live published the article – The Death of Solidworks followed by Deelip Menezes interview of Jeff Ray, CEO of Solidworks. Check this out. Like old wine, this article is getting better within time.  I captured a few passages from the article.

If you had told me at the beginning of 2010 that PTC would dump the Pro/Engineer brand and that the CEO of SolidWorks would openly discuss ‘killing’ SolidWorks (the product), I would have assumed that you were off your head on smack.

In October PTC announced the rebranding and redevelopment of its flagship product range under the ‘Creo’ umbrella. Then in November, SolidWorks CEO Jeff Ray openly discussed how the company had started a secret ‘let’s kill SolidWorks’ project to create a new generation modeling tool.

The interview can be read on the blog of Deelip Menezes , where Jeff Ray refers to ‘killing’ no less than six times. The essential facts that came out of this bombshell were that the company’s next generation modeller will be based on Catia’s V6 geometry engine (replacing Siemens Parasolid), use Dassault Systèmes’ Enovia PDM, include better direct modelling functionality and be, to a larger extent, cloud-based.

Meantime, the revenue of Solidworks went up significantly. It is very hard to call the death of Solidworks with this revenue chart. Especially remembering some CAD CEOs in the past telling – if I have revenues and customers, we can fix everything else.

Al Dean predicted platform changes in the same D3D article speaking about cloud platforms coming. It is indeed happening. Two new cloud products Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape, didn’t exist at the time article were written and today these products are trending.

Here is an interesting picture about Fusion360 growth I captured recently from Autodesk.

Onshape is not publishing the number of users, but reporting 8 millions of hours and thousand customers in production using Onshape. Check this article.

Thousands of companies rely on Onshape to modernize and streamline their product development cycle. Onshape users in 170+ countries have logged over 8 million hours modeling advanced robotics, biomedical devices, industrial machinery, agriculture equipment, and consumer products. With 1 in 8 sessions occurring on mobile devices, Onshape is the world’s first anywhere, anytime CAD system.

Although I call these products cloud, Fusion360 and Onshape are very different products. The richness of Fusioon360 application and support of Autodesk Forge platform across multiple applications and novelty of Onshape data management is probably best highlights of differences between these CAD tools.

A recent LinkedIn article – The (CAD) world after Solidworks by Moshe Baum can give you a bit more information from the end-user standpoint. Moshe is clearly excited about the power of the cloud and Onshape data management. The article is getting a good number of comments Check this out.

This is really where the game changes. Being cloud-only system – much like Google Docs, there is no ‘save’, but also no check-in/check-out, cache, sync, update, or loss of data due to “crash”. Every action made is instantly generated and recorded in visible trail – and can be restored or reverted. Any point in time can be flagged as “version” or released as “revision” for structured release workflows – along with system-generated unique part numbers

I can see that the market is slowly turning towards the exploration of new CAD technologies and products. However, the remaining question is still the legacy. New projects can leverage new systems. What about existing ones? How fast data will be translated. How projects will co-exist. These and some other systems? All these questions are not that simple.

What is my conclusion? The changes in CAD software is coming slowly. With a huge amount of legacy, financial power of existing brands and resistance of the engineering community to changes, it is not a trivial task to disrupt and make a change. What is the right formula of features, functions, technology, novelty, and price? This is a question old and new CAD vendors will have to answer in the next 10 years. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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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