Just so you know…

There have been a couple of rumblings of Jon Hirschtick and his team coming back to the product development scene. Evan Yares and Ray Kurland have mentioned this on twitter. Nothing specific at this time. We all can feel it’s time for another breakthrough in CAD. Dassault is not going to provide it, that’s clear. Pro/E is lost, believing their own bs. Autodesk is … just Autodesk. Siemens has some great products, but few people are seeing the value that I think is there. There is no lack of good ideas, but right now no one is capitalizing on them.

The market has changed in the last 10 years. Vendors are all pumped up about a broader PLM market, but CAD users don’t see it. I think any “product development” effort that seriously tries to lump CAD into PLM is first of all, negating the passion of CAD users. I think it’s impossible to get really pumped up about PLM. PLM is accounting, clerical stuff, very boring. Sure those customer’s money is green, but they don’t have the excitement about what they do, and the software is not bought by the people who use it, it’s bought by their boss’s boss. CAD users – midrange CAD anyway, if there still is such a thing –ย  are closer to the source, and much closer to the excitement.

Not to say that product development vendors shouldn’t make and sell PLM software. It’s clearly needed, and can be profitable. Just don’t forget that the real excitement in product development is in CAD. Concept. Development. Virtual Testing. Documentation. Nobody is really catering to excitement in CAD right now.

37 Replies to “Just so you know…”

  1. Engineer,
    I am reading what you are writing and I have to tell you that you are so far off the money here that I conclude you are either a schill for the cloud or very naive. The fact of the matter is that it takes better than average intelligence to utilise CAD and associated software. This also means that these same intellectual and analytical abilities are the ones regarding all the lies promulgated by cloud sponsoring companies. People here are not stupid and they see the hooplah and then also see the lack of viable real world studies and proven programs. They see pay to play hostage taking. They see their money being spent to develop things they never wanted while many they do want are ignored.

    The proof is in those little EULAs that these cloud companies talk about and how they are written to exonerate everyone but their customers from liabilities caused by the flawed cloud model. Have you ever noticed how there has never been a real world comparison study done to prove how this cloud is better, more cost effective and beneficial to users than stand alone seats operating autonomously without exposure to the jeopardy that the internet brings? Have you ever noticed the words that come from Dassault rep’s mouths stating that they cant be held responsible for those things beyond their control?

    The cloud is slow to pickup in engineering because we are smart enough to see the flawed model that for the forseeable future cant be made to work reliably and certainly not as well or secure as what we have on our own desktops and servers. NOT Cheap, good point. Why should we go where we lose so much in every way and then have to pay more for the priveledge of being data hostages and subjected to security risks that cant be ameliorated in addition to whole new layers of CRAP infrastructure, ISP, server farms etc problems we never had to deal with before. There are just so many ways here that make the cloud fall flat on it’s face that it just boggles the mind this junk is even still getting traction. Well really in the CAD world it isn’t is it. We see companies getting ready to pull the trigger on their customers and talking about forcing people to go there but I bet most will not and this will be a short lived policy that will fail when enough customers leave.

    You come up with rationalizations about why we are not going there but the truth is we see lies and evasions from cloud CAD companies for years now. We see no proof of concept based on real world conditions we have to work in. We see no written guarantees about anything that concerns us. We see no advantage in any way to the cloud.

    We do know in the CAD world we need to have stable software with a predictable program and vendor selling it to us. We need to controll our own infrastructure as much as possible because we sign these little confidentiality agreements with our customers that say what we do with them has to be secure. Is it not strange that not one cloud company will sign that agreement with us? I have said enough here and could go on for quite some time with a lot of additional points any cloud for CAD proponent can’t rebut or provide satisfactory answers for. Sometimes I just get mad reading about how we users are technophobes and backwards looking and foot draggers when indeed what the situation really is is that we are smart enough to not buy into unproven technology.

  2. @Neil

    I’m sure you will read this. This blog wont be half as interesting without you.
    Please come back ๐Ÿ™‚

    Coming to think of it – almost all users of technology don’t know what they need until they see it. Of course they almost all the time know what they don’t need once they see it.

    The product which easily comes to mind for the first statement above is the iPhone. For the second statement there are tons of failures – Microsoft Kin phone just came to my mind.

    Its hardly surprising to read some of the reactions in this blog. Users are fearful of uncertainty which is brought by change. See this TED video about the science of uncertainty – http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/11/opinion/lotto-ted-science-play/index.html

    There is constant change in technology – the cloud has changed the way we communicate. The cloud is slow to pickup in the engineering space because of the following reasons (there may be others)

    1. Slow adoption of graphic technology in web browsers
    2. Lack of fresh tech talent (most CAD developers are desktop software developers)
    3. Legacy software which is hard (and expensive) to rewrite to suit the cloud

    Is the cloud going to be cheap? Of course not. It costs a lot of money to keep the servers always running and your files always available for all the users all the time.

    Eventually the users are going to decide the success of the cloud in the engineering space. But the users will not be able to second guess what the next engineering tech entrepreneur is going to come up with.

  3. No, we now know all we need to know thank you after digging around a little more. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    No idea what they are going to do..bah! Belmont Inc. are off our watch list.
    Time is short Mr Engineer nd I have more important things to do.
    In fact its ten years this month since I started with SW and I have been scaling back my SW participation since they went serรฎusly off road these past few years.
    This seems like a good point to pull the plug on my SW participation entirely.
    May see you guys on Matt’s SE blog and other CAD places in the future but that’s it for SW and its shady derivatives. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Bye y’all.

  4. Aha! Yup gotcha!
    Same little infestation we had before. Belmont Technology Inc. is the name of the new corporation.
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/axelbichara
    Belmont, Cloudswitch, GrabCAD, Solidworks….hmmmm….very very small world in Ma.
    No doubt there are some other less visible hangers on as well. Wonder if David Skok has a finger in this pie too. Perhaps he has worked out by now whether he is on the SW board or not…doesn’t necessarily mean he got around to changing his resume though.
    Dassault had better get their lawyers warmed up to make sure no insider information is being exploited and they aren’t competing with their former employer..naughty, naughty…
    I bet they would have loved to be selling server farms and cloud tech to Dassault for their serfs. Perhaps they are doing that too? Some innocuous sounding front company for that since I flagged that possibility? That would be very naughty indeed wouldn’t it? Double dipping/two timing like that. And there was I suspecting a historical trail of cloud intrigue. Where did this stuff really come from? Where is it really going? I asked myself. Better get out again and tell me the cloud is the miracle technology we have to have John M, it didn’t quite work the first time. We’re not all a bit thick you know.
    Perhaps they still blush a little and just thought their own CAD in the cloud would be sufficiently removed from big bad Dassault not to attract scrutiny/litigation, cut out the middleman and such, and seem like a friendly/safe alternative. Nothing like exploiting some big names to give the new corp street cred with the hopeful monkeys. Classy. Classy but greedy.
    Sorry guys but there is zero chance I am interested in your venture. Its the third strike and you are out. Wave bye, bye to that bait and hook. Bye, bye to Belmont. Bye, bye to Dassault….and good riddance to CAD serfdom via the cloud. The great rent seeking IT scam of the century.
    BTW possibly they are or will be situated here? http://www.massbio.org/economic_development/real_estate/listings/65-belmont_technology_park/real_estate_listing_detail

  5. Be actually interesting to know who initiated this reunion….
    By bet is John M and his little band of vulture capitalists from GrabCAD are trying to make a bigger grab for a decent number of CAD serfs and by making use of some slightly deluded and nostalgic ‘old timers’. Apologies guys but…
    Still now that we know its cloud based no ones going to be interested let alone hang around for years until its complete enough to use. They would have to be well behind in that game already. You would wonder though how these guys can get into cloud CAD given the insider knowledge they must have of Dassault. Don’t they have no compete agreements and such? They are never going to raise capital like Dassault can or have their technical resources. What’s the point??
    If you want to do something worthwhile Jon H do something different and innovative. Lose the parasites and do your mission for engineers and designers.
    BTW does anybody know where to look online to find out who is involved in their new corporation? I presume they have to file details for that, names, addresses, roles, share holding etc. This is definitely one of those crevices that I was saying we should shine a flashlight into come Catia lite in the cloud during that GrabCAD episode, except they managed to pop up somewhere else a little early and unexpectedly…what was that story again? The same small group of people turning up in various ventures and someone claiming to be on the SW board in his resume and he wasnt or something…hmmm have to look back in the posts…

  6. @matt ofcourse it’s a cloud application. Do you think any VC will fund a desktop app?

    I know it’s early days for a CAD design app in the cloud. But SW was also an early mover with CAD on Windows. In those days people were saying – it’s not possible to get any work done on anything less than a Unix Workstation …

    Good luck to the founders! Some of the rabid anti-cloud folks on this blog will be watching every move ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Well no need to follow that one any more ๐Ÿ˜‰ John M strikes again…. thanks dude ๐Ÿ™
    Although I must say Jon H doesn’t come across as having the right atitude/awareness these days either…probably should just retire…write his memoirs or something.
    I’ll be checking out SE, Spaceclaim and a few others over the next year. Its time to get serious about choosing a SW replacement from whats out there today.

  8. Jon H: ” Basically, we are looking for the kind of people who are the top programmers at companies like Google and Amazon.”

    hmm.

  9. I agree a key aspect to their eventual success is that they shouldnt redo what’s been done before just to put their own take/brand on it or preserve their baby.
    It needs to be different as a point of sale and because we have moved on technology wise and also have a clearer idea of what people actually need/want based on 15 years experience with 3d. I’m sure we haven’t seen everything there is to see yet re 3d. I think it would be a mistake to strip everything back and just focus on pure geometry though. Sure thats the basis of what you buy CAD for but that sounds too conservative/limiting to me. Will people buy into that model? Do people buy panel vans or sports cars given the choice? Perhaps we are talking a new low price then for a dedicated pro app…1995 dollars? Is a large business and ancillary reseller network sustainable at that price level?
    I think the core architecture/approach needs to be reworked so that you can do more clever coding things with it if you want to. I’m not sure less can be more….although less ought to mean what is, is very refined ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I would think too whatever they do they will be leveraging Parasolid again just because it would seem impractical to build everything from scratch – too expensive, too time consuming. I wonder if that will allow the level of innovation I have in mind or whether in fact they end up just providing their own skin again with a few functional variations.
    That would be pretty disappointing…

  10. Well as long as they do what they have been told. They have been given enough clues, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I expected you to be a little more optimistic that that Matt but yeah the gap from now until say 3-5 years out is a problem for the audience. Perhaps you could do a short interview with one of them? I think they must have something definite in mind. Its pretty hard to believe they got together to sit in a room with a blank white board and say to each other ‘well what do we do now’. At least I sincerely hope it isn’t like that.

    1. I’d love to be optimistic, and the fact that they are not waiting for DS to show their cards is a good sign that they will take a different path. I don’t think the world needs another strictly prismatic modeler, or another way to implement direct modeling. We don’t need IT solutions we don’t need a single integrated metadata handler. We need geometry tools that are powerful and accurate.

  11. Hmmmm. I expected the news to draw more response than this.
    Perhaps not as many people read here these days?
    Perhaps I just post too often and go on too long in comparison to everyone else…seems more likely doesn’t it? ๐Ÿ™‚
    Anyway I thought it would be fair to give the old team some credit too along with the doubts I expressed.
    Firstly it appears they are determined to be enterprising when times are difficult and it is all to easy to declare that CAD is over and done and go home, so they get points for wanting to be innovative and take a risk, and for wanting to be prospective employers (and potentially employ many many people if it all pans out well over 5-10 years.)
    The US needs this gritty entrepreneurial can-do spirit again. Too much has been given away shortsightedly as the result of decisions taken only considering the immediate bottom line.
    There are a lot of good people who unfortunately find themselves idle at the moment and somewhat dependant, as circumstances are against their best endeavours, and larger than they can personally change.
    Its good to see people who have ability to start up significant businesses stepping up to the challenge. These guys could just retire to the Bahamas or something but they are dusting off their experience and skills, rolling their sleeves up and doing something they believe in. I suspect too they genuinely want again to deliver a useful tool for engineers in accord with the objectives/values of their first venture together. They get further points in my book for being of noble courage and dedicated to empowering engineers and designers ahead of empire building and money mining.
    I still believe this recession is going to take 15-20 years to right once the situation has been faced up to. Without the most able people being willing to tackle the tough tasks the technology/industry pyramid could easily decay over that time and following generations would lose important know how and infrastructure to earn a decent standard of living.
    Its important to pass along a sound industrial heritage despite the major disruption and keep an active academic/technical ‘class’, so they also get points for good stewardship/leadership/mentoring/social contribution etc.
    Potentially there are a galaxy of jobs that could be available related to making the new hardware, the software and sales/support. I foresee opportunities for many people to shift from an adandonned product to a new, vibrant one, be much happier that the company is more harmonious with their own culture/values, that it is invigorating to be doing something with their talents rather than marking time on pointless revisions/life extenders, and also they can be satisfied that it benefits their nation’s economy rather than someone else’s.
    Also….they won’t have to relocate except to another building and most likely they will already know more than one person who works there… ๐Ÿ˜‰
    All of these gainful things they/you are capable of doing because they/you have done them in the past.
    Lets not forget how many great ideas and businesses have emerged from the United States.
    Americans should rally behind these guys and help build something outstanding again. With the right ideas these guys are more likely to succeed in establishing a fresh CAD company and nurturing it to be a major success than anyone.
    Although what happened to SW is unfortunate I would welcome the opportunity to kick Dassault to the kerb in preference to having something done right and even better/more capable, incorporating the most genuinely useful technologies available. Bring it on guys. Lets see what you can do ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. You’re assuming they are going to come up with something great again. Will lightning strike these guys twice? Is Jon H the new Mike Payne? The announcement itself is not real news. It’s the possibility of news a couple years out.

  12. matt :
    A โ€œnew approachโ€ might be CAD software that is layout based rather than part based, top-down thinking baked right in. It might be stuff where you start out more graphical and then becomes more technical.

    @matt
    It might be called design in the context of the layouts. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. Devon, wait and see is not enough IMO.
    This is an unusual startup in that they have a willing team (a reunion) but apparently no idea what they will produce.
    Is that a good business driver? Usually someone has ground breaking or obviously beneficial ideas that people want to buy into or are recruited to support/develop and it grows vigorously of its own accord.
    OK so its nice to know the old team are getting back into the business but, yeah, well, so what?
    They need to get out there and do a little more active/lively promotion than that. Leaking out a wee confirmation in a fairly obscure place that they set up a company recently with no real plan just isn’t going to attract moths let alone monkeys.
    I even wonder if that many people would recognise the names if they haven’t been around the SW universe very long.
    What happened to lines like ‘Yes you heard right the people who brought you SW are back and with a mission to unleash a stunning CAD new technology than will truly benefit engineers and designers. The great part is we’re bringing back all the great business friendly values that customers love with the bonus of all the experience we derived from our very successful past venture. We’re looking forward to engaging with our future customers and keen to get into real coding soon. In the future we’ll be looking for feedback and testers. Tune into our blog for news and updates and join our forum to discuss what you would like to see incorporated into our new inspired program.’…
    Well you know build some excitement internally and externally. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    At the moment I have rather mixed or ambivalent feelings about how it might go.
    What am I waiting on? Is it worth waiting? How long might I wait?
    Show me the direction, commitment and energy are there guys.
    This is a new venture. A new beginning. It has to have a life and valid purpose of its own and not be a recreation of the last one that was unjustly put to death much against everyone’s wishes. OK so we know there are a lot of SW refugees looking for hope and change and not getting any. At least share a vision of the promised land. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I have a dream, a dream of a better CAD program, a program to deliver geometry to all who want it…. somebody say Amen.

  14. I’ve heard these same rumors about Jon Hirschtick from some reliable sources too. My wife & I were talking about this last night.

    Wait & see ๐Ÿ™‚

    Cheers, Devon

  15. Another thing to consider is that it will be years before they have anything useful to sell and frankly it may not be that good or complete enough when it arrives. I don’t think they can make it known they are out there and expect people to wait purely on repute. The need for a SW replacement in the near term will most likely be met by SE. Having gone to SE I don’t know that people will want to change yet again. It would have to be outstandingly better than everything else available.
    Realistically I think circumstances are against this venture being successful despite or even because of the calibre of the participants. Its really a fresh and perhaps raw take on CAD technology we are after I think… I think if I were them I would recruit a number of fresh minds to take an active part in their venture and trade on a new better approach coming, tempered by years of industry experience and decent business values.
    OK so enough of my contributions… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. Accurate reliable geometry! Then go to an elegant user interface. Build it with tight code that will run on any os.

  17. Bah I see some spelling mistakes I can’t fix now and I think I was beginning to rave incoherently. Oh well….
    I had the best of intentions to make something interesting/challenging for fellow blog visitors to consider… ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Wonder if the Hirschtick skunkworks team look in here and get confused by my posts like everyone else? Hehe ๐Ÿ˜€
    I suppose they are based in/around Boston again? Makes it easy to headhunt some quality staff I suppose…
    Will you have a website or blog soon guys?
    Seems like you want some very early publicity with the intention of inheriting old SW customers eventually. Better keep the interest and info flowing in that case. Don’t do a Dassault on us.

  18. Thinking about this some more perhaps I should have said the own-brand hardware/software combo could be thought of as a ‘neural network’ for design and engineering tasks. It is adaptible/configurable to the mission at hand ie we take a step back and up from trying to feed mostly single threads with calculations for this and then for that and move on to multi tasking/conducting the whole mission more intelligently/seemlessly. The design phase becomes self refining/healing based on nominated objectives rather than iterative rework/repairs by default. We build a machine that is an extension of what we would do ourselves dynamically but it does all the hard work and data management/updating leaving us more time to concentrate on the quality of the ideas. ‘Dave would you like me to contact our supplier re the design change you just made?’…’Thanks HAL send Janet an email with a revision note and a copy of the updated component attached.
    The particular hardware taking care of a task is selected to suit. You might use the simple tablet, massive parallel GPU, or mutlicore CPU, or even dare I say farm some out to servers/cloud services as appropriate. The tablet based interface would afford a new degree of flexibility/convenience/mobility/useabilty and social/collaborative exchange either face to face or remotely. As the computing power of tablets improves with generations so will their autonomous CAE capacity. With say OLED screens batteries will last much longer…
    Perhaps that doesn’t make too much sense the way I put it. Trouble is you have to have a holistic viewpoint to see the intent and benefits and many people will be into discrete technical details and linear work flows. This neural-centric tool/system is different from endeavouring to have a very intuitive front end on a single processor core, incorporating social networking to extend our immediate bounds of contact, or moving everything to the cloud because you can and its fashionable to go back to the future. Those are the latest greatest updates on a way of working that goes back to pencil and paper whereas I am advocating a refocus/rewrite to be task focused rather than tool focused which is enabled by the progressed technology of today and tomorrow. I know some SW people I mentioned some aspects of this concurrent CAE machine type of thinking to in the past – even 2 pc’s twinned together under a single license with a mouse for each hand – didn’t think it was a real world solution or just wishful sci-fi fantasy however I think the issue they have with pursuing it stems from a lack of imagination/insight and will, and being trapped in a large, slow moving, self absorbed corporation.
    After all SW seem to see the cloud and nothing but the cloud these days regardless.
    Perhaps it just needs some ‘old’ hands to pick up on new or re-expressed ideas with an open mind and go achieve something. Maybe you could call the result NeuCAD. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  19. @matt I think SpaceClaim is better at direct , I think SolidWorks is better at history, ST combines both but I don’t think its the best combo package yet! Creo parametric with Flex also looks like a very capable combo ,maybe better than ST. If SpaceClaim had configs and an easy way of converting all of our SW parts & ass’y for the past 15 years we probably would have switched. I don’t know what the next big cad thing is but I think Neal is right, old SW Execs are probably not the ones to come up with it. Some 18yr old kid is probably working on it now. Just my 2 cents

  20. Maybe the next thing isn’t CAD or hardware, as Neil posits, it’s interface. There’s an interesting new device called “Leap Motion Controller” that’s due to ship early next year. It’s a puck that sits on your desk in front of your keyboard and it interprets your hand movements like a smaller-scale Kinect with much higher resolution. More than a decade ago, retail TurboCAD was sold with the option to implement voice control. It was slow, unreliable and inferior to mice and keyboard, but nowadays, voice is built into Windows and smart-phone OSs, and it works much better. As well, there are eye-motion detectors such as that that Stephen Hawking uses to communicate and drive his chair. There’s no tactile or haptic feedback from these devices, like the Sensable thing tries to give, but people can use computers without HAVING to have traditional interfaces. There are a number of CAD apps that have rudimentary scripting interfaces, not too far removed from the scene description script language of PovRay or other ray tracers. If you can describe something with a voice interface like you were dictating to a secretary, old-school, who knows where that might lead? The old observations about some nationalities talking with their hands might hold true, too. Can you imagine designers with Pininfarina or Bertone sculpting air with their hands, and clay, foam or plaster being trowelled by Kinect-interfaced-and-interpreted CNC?

  21. What I would like to see is them get into dedicated hardware as well because since SW started up we have gone multi core on CPU and GPU and ssd have come along. Plus I think there is room for innovation breaking down the engineering mission to specialist concurrent processes like left and right brain, or to stray into transactional theory for a second, parent- data control, adult- rational process, child- creativity. You could call it HAL or something.
    Basically you would pick up a branded box that is functionally configurable for design/engineering uses. Sorta like buying a Lincoln welder that comes in a nice big red/gray cardboard box with the bits and pieces. I envisage a sort of side by side case which could be as I said left and right brain dedicated or another combo of CPU and multiple GPU box for analysis and raytrace rendering, or perhaps even three units modular fashion. A bit like a Dell mini supercomputer.
    Right brained stuff might stray way out to gestures and kinect scannners and left brain background concurrent analysis and data mining. A user might tailor his workstation to be a far out artistic box or an anal retentive one. You could swap around modules in your company to suit projects and staff changes or add them as you need.
    I think the box should be a fixed central unit with wireless tablet/pen interfaces of about 16″ for people to collaborate/meet around if they wish. The tablet could be used independantly as a viewer/napkin space, and a pack and go/data exchange device, or I suppose for remote access. They would be useful in themselves as regular tablets but the heavy lifting would be done by the HAL box.
    This sort of approach raps up and extends existing technology and makes the best use of it for a particular task.
    Anyway good luck with it guys.

  22. @ralphg
    Ralph,
    I don’t count SpaceClaim because to me it’s less than Synch Tech, and Synch Tech isn’t making the kind of moves a game changer will make. The cloud doesn’t really count as a new approach to CAD, cuz its just an old approach to IT. Cloud really doesn’t have anything to do with CAD.

    A “new approach” might be CAD software that is layout based rather than part based, top-down thinking baked right in. It might be stuff where you start out more graphical and then becomes more technical. It might be something that ditches NURBS and merges technical surfacing with mesh based techniques. Something that incorporates functional modeling. Something where there is no (or less) distinction between prismatic and interpolated shapes.

  23. Can SpaceClaim be considered a new approach to CAD? How about sunglass.io?

    In other words, define “a new approach to CAD.” Would you know it if you saw it?

    But I know what Neil means. Some of those involved in this new venture were involved in other post-SolidWorks ventures that did not work out well, like Cosmic Blobs.

  24. We sure do need Solidworks II. They need for fix those geometry bugs that have been around since 2007. Forget the cloud.

  25. Jon B linked to an announcement in a post at the SW forums. I was expecting the thread to be removed but its still there, at this time anyway. My worry is that these are ‘old men’ reviving glory days. I wonder if they are really the right people to bring us the next big thing in CAD. Perhaps it needs a fresh viewpoint….garage innovation..
    Also I was not so pleased to know John M is involved. I don’t have a lot of confidence in the guy’s sense of direction. Most likely SW went off into the cloud because of him. He seems to have his foot into inner Mass. circles but popup in rather B grade startups these days. If he is there helping to define what their new program is about I would rather he had some other role. Just my take. No offence John ๐Ÿ˜‰ I am sure he has many talents but I don’t think he been on the ball since about 2006.
    So potentially interesting but not necessarily a sure winner. A seasoned team for sure but it will be the tech that will matter most. It will have to be fresh and very effective. We don’t just need a SW II and definitely not The Cloud – take 5d.

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