At SOLIDWORKS WORLD 2019 we had the chance to learn more about Dassault Systèmes’ software strategy.
The company is best known for its powerful CAD software and growing ecosystem, SOLIDWORKS. This tool has been used for many years by professional engineers to design, well, everything. It’s frequently used as a teaching tool in schools, leading graduates to keep using it when they enter the workforce.
But in these days of cloud software, is there a place for the desktop-oriented SOLIDWORKS tooling?
Dassault Systèmes says so.
But at the same time there are interesting parallel developments with Dassault Systèmes’ “other” tool, the xApps.
xApps are a series of CAD tools that are entirely cloud-based. These creative applications actually run in a browser, making them usable on practically any type of device, anywhere. Dassault Systèmes also provides simple licensing to enable many people to make use of the tools.
They’ve just announced a series of improvements to the xApps as well, including:
A new “xShape” app that provides the ability to perform organic-style 3D “sculpting” by push/pull techniques, a capability entirely lacking in SOLIDWORKS (to be provided to beta testers later this month)
3D Mouse support for all xApps for 3DConnexion devices like the SpaceMouse
A new way to perform boolean operations with Enhancements to ellipse sketching, creating holes and a new Section View
Dassault Systèmes says the xApps are “becoming more of a complete design solution”. They even provide notable interoperability with SOLIDWORKS itself with interconnection tools.
Now, at this point you might ask why a major software company has two styles of products, one being standalone, and the other cloud-based and improving rapidly.
Of course, we’ve all seen this before in other companies, with the example of Adobe. Adobe produced a series of standalone creative apps like PhotoShop, Illustrator and others. But after a while they eventually discontinued the standalone apps and had all users migrate to the subscription cloud service instead.
We’re seeing the same with Microsoft’s tools these days, too.
It’s in the interest of the company to migrate users to such an arrangement for a variety of reasons:
Subscription fees provide a much smoother and regular revenue stream
Subscription fees ensure no one “skips” a release and avoids paying for a time
Cloud-based software is instantly updatable — for all users simultaneously. Everyone is always at the same level of software
There is no need to perform extensive tests on differing hardware, video cards, etc.
Is this the case with Dassault Systèmes? Could they be eventually seeking to migrate SOLIDWORKS users to a cloud-based system?
Dassault Systèmes says the xApps are not designed for the SOLIDWORKS user, so they seem to be continuing on a two-prong path for the moment.
Will this continue forever? Will Dassault Systèmes maintain two separate, but powerful, CAD environments? Or will they fold up the desktop version into the cloud at some point in the future?
We can’t know and they won’t say, but based on what has been seen happening in other companies, there is a good chance this may eventually happen. However, that day is certainly very far off.
SOLIDWORKS is a highly mature product with countless features, some designed specifically for particular industries. Meanwhile, the xApp suite is still relatively new and does not have nearly the functions available in SOLIDWORKS.
Dassault Systèmes is rapidly improving the xApp suite, as is made possible by a cloud-based architecture. It is possible the rate of change on the cloud is faster than the standalone change rate. And you know what that eventually could mean.