by Roopinder Tara, Tenlinks.com
PTC had been promising something really big for a few months. As a couple of hundred people sat in anticipation, klaxons go off and convicts in orange jumpsuits invade the packed room. Expecting some corporate cheer leading and some dreary PowerPoint, I'll bet more than a few in the audience probably soiled their undies as several bad asses got way too close before they were safely locked up in a cage.
The prisoners were metaphors for the creativity, interoperability... properties imprisoned by present CAD systems, for which Creo, PTC's new suite of products, was a sure cure.
You can watch the whole thing here.
Can you blame PTC for such theatrics? These days, it takes a lot to be heard over the noise. Every new technology is introduced as the next big thing. A couple of weeks ago, the big thing was Solid Edge, who had just come out with the 3rd version of Synchronous Technology. The CAD intelligentsia pretty much agreed Siemens had it right, and if only people knew about it, Solid Edge was going to rule the world. Surely, Solid Edge was the next big thing.
A few months ago, Dassault had blown up the IntelliCAD/AutoCAD-compatible/DWG-editing market with DraftSight. It was FREE! Wasn't that going to turn the world upside down?
It is into this world that PTC introduced Creo. This really is the next big thing, they are saying.
Excuse us for going all Vegas on you but we have to wake you up and shake you. You see all those products that we've had for years? Pro/ENGINEER? CoCreate? Well, forget about them. Sure we spent millions telling you how good they were, but, you know what? They were hard to use! We'll admit it now because the stuff we have now is really easy to use.
This time we're not kidding. These new products are a huge risk for us. We're betting the farm. Yes, the P in PTC stands for parametric, but never mind that for now*. Yeah we made Pro/E practically a household name, but watch as we do it all over again. Parametrics, history and history free/direct/explicit... whatever you call it, we can do it. "Do it your way" (somebody see if that's available). Sure, we used to sell you big monolithic, expensive apps and convinced you that was the only way to do serious CAD, but now we're going to show you a slew of little, light apps -- and sell them online. Right, just like Apple... thanks for seeing that.
PTC could easily have coasted on their old product line. It was doing well enough. It was robust, a leader in many industries. No one ever faulted Pro/E on technology. A lot of big manufacturers used it (25,000 by PTC's count). Why change? Think Tiger Woods changing his golf swing when he was on top of his game.
In so many ways it makes no sense. PTC did shake up the CAD world over 20 years ago when it first appeared on the scene with a parametric/history based solid modeler. But in recent times, direct modeling has appeared as the new golden child. Industry stalwarts downplayed the technology, some still do. When PTC bought the direct modeling CoCreate, CAD insiders were convinced PTC was just hedging its bet. CoCreate was going to exist as a parallel offering, allowing PTC to give an either/or solution. Probably many saw CoCreate fading away as PTC concentrated on its main product line, using CoCreate only as an appeasement when the lack of direct modeling was seen as a deal breaker, like the lone veggie meal at a steakhouse. We thought they were just waiting till we lost interest in direct modeling. When the fad faded, everyone would come back to real CAD.
Not in my wildest dreams would I have thought PTC would scuttle their product line as they have done.
I can only speculate how this might have occurred. I can't imagine the old guard at PTC doing a shakeup of this magnitude, but then I never really got PTC -- a company that seemed to be bent on spending all its money acquiring companies that had only marginal utility for their users (Mathcad and Arbortext) in a quixotic attempt at growing market share.
I'm watching Jim Heppelmann on stage. Heppelmann unofficially took over PTC as CEO only back in May. Could Creo be his baby? I had him pegged as a PDM guy, with roots in Windchill. But in the official PTC bio, Heppelmann gets credit for Wildfire, which was big news when it revamped the venerable Pro/E interface. Could that have been a warm up for Creo? Still, Hepplemenn is gracious enough to share the stage with his lieutenants, Mike Campbell and Brian Shepherd, both of whom flawlessly deliver an explanation of Creo -- thankfully void of any more theatrical hijinks.
The PTC I knew would have conservatively kept the old product line intact and on the shelf, selling both. This PTC is different. Everyone must migrate to Creo.
Good thing PTC didn't go for the the burning-our-bridges metaphor in a packed theater.
(*) Why doesn't PTC change their name from Parametric Technology Company to Product Technology Company already?
[Reprinted by permission from CAD Insider.]