Judging from the negative commentary and comments on Matt Lombard's Dezignstuff blog about SolidWorks and the company behind it, you'd think it was pretty much dead. Or dying. Or with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. [Cue the peal of laughter.]
SolidWorks the software isn't, of course, and in just the last half-year brand-owner Dassault Systems has grown to become the biggest CAD software company in the world.
Nevertheless, people who have built their small business on the success of SolidWorks are concerned of its future due to the vague statements made by Dassault, such as this by-now-classic:
The existing SolidWorks tools will continue to be actively developed (not just supported) until customers no longer express a need for them, and will continue to be based on the Parasolid kernel.
On the surface, it reads positively, but the problem lies in the word "customers," a word as meaningless as "they." (As my English 12 teacher reprimanded us one day in class, there is no "they.") Dassault needs to work in the same reality as their customers: how many need to express a need for SolidWorks tools for Dassault to continue developing them? Two represents the plural of customer.
Dassault will not continue developing SolidWorks for two customers. Nor for 10. Or 100. Or a thousand. Doubtful even for 10,000. (History: Autodesk stopped developing Generic CADD, which had 300,000 apparent customers.)
In the provocatively titled posting "[Former Solidworks ceo] Jeff Ray Killed SolidWorks, [current ceo] Bertrand Sicot Embalms" at Dezignstuff, a vigorous discussion is now at 39 comments. There is the group of regulars long-faced about Solidworks having no future, if not already dead; others, however, talk up the positives of V6. As Dudi put it, if you are today designing a CAD package, you have to design it with the cloud in mind.
Knut F asks, "But let’s say that everything works out just fine (for sake of the argument), and there is a bug free SWv6 available from day one. I’m curious about what level of functionality will be available in SWv6."
When I asked this question at a SolidWorks media event last year, a DSSW exec told me that V6 would have tools "suitable for the needs" of the targeted person using V6. This is code for a subset of design tools.
This makes sense, because you cannot launch a full-blown CAD package in version 1.0. Even SpaceClaim gets annual updates that fill in missing features, like sheetmetal design. We know that V6 will launch less capable than SolidWorks 2013, and so it will look like an immediate failure to current SolidWorks users -- along the lines of that n!Software (whatever it was called).
Missing functions is one crucial issue; the other is pricing. For Dassault to give V6 a chance at success, it needs to price it free initially, by making it part of the SolidWorks annual maintenance fee. (History: Autodesk included the first two releases of AutoCAD for Windows free with the DOS version.) I predict, however, that Dassault won't; the extra monthly/annual fee imposed on top of SW's annual fee will make it as successful among Solidworks users as that n!Software was (whatever it was called).
If the CGM-based [nee-Solidworks] V6 will have a chance, it will be in the large customer market; it will bypass SMB.
It won't be called Solidworks, but will be subsumed into the 3DEXPERIENCE brand as a cloud-based, Envoia-linked, lightwight modeler suitable for seats adjacent to Catia.
Product managers for Creo and Inventor are salivating as Solidworks faces being GenericCADDed.