* About those million seats:
There was no special jump in the numbers: The 1 million was simply the number of commercial + educational seats licensed since SolidWorks 95. DS SolidWorks will continue publish seat numbers, he told me, unlike Autodesk and others, who have stopped.
The one millionth license was sold to OGIO, maker of bags, who uses SolidWorks to engineer the design of bags. They examined how golfers used golf bags, and added a notch to the handle for the finger that carries most of the load.
* About SolidWorks 2010
"The feature wars are behind us," he began. The emphasis now is on stabilizing the core code and creating a great user experience. It's like the difference between a Lexus and a Yaris -- both are cars, but one feels better to drive. Experience became a priority after they learned half of their customers spend 70% of the day inside SolidWorks.
He felt sorry for his marketing deparment, whose job it is to figure out how to market something as squishy as “experience.”
* About Direct Modeling
"No direct modeling," came his blunt reply. It is impressive to demo, but is not practical for engineers, he said. Instead of adding direct modeling, DSSW wants to make Instant3D into something that is better than what is being newly offered by Siemens, Autodesk, and PTC.
* About Multitouch
SoldiWorks is dabbling with touch screens, but has not yet seen a clear winner; current technology is not yet good enough. Users should not, however, be saddled with the keyboard and mouse, and so something will some day replace the duo.
* About Linux and Mac
Mr Ray has no interest in "just" porting to Mac or Linux, but to be even more flexible than that. If they see users moving to another platform, DSSW is working at understanding trends so that they can be ready. Right now, DSSW is working on making it easier to share drawings with IP protection intact.
All the new and different forms of technology is disrupting users -- social networking, the cloud, portable purpose-built devices, Internet kiosks -- and DSSW does not want to fall in love with one specific technology. Users should not be bound to the desktop, even as the desktop computer remains central to 3D modeling work.
This change means DSSW needs to change its Microsoft-locked software in two ways, I suggested to Mr Ray:
1. Write new software that is independent of hardware and operating system;
2. Or, rewrite SolidWorks to make it independent of Microsoft's code libraries and operating system.
He replied, "Yes. And yes," but with this rider: "We are not abandoning Microsoft, who have been a great partner." He admitted that Jon Hirschstick was very lucky to take a chance on Windows for his new engineering software back in the early 1990s -- against all advice.
"Only SolidWorks can kill SolidWorks," he declared. We talked of the need for companies to be sufficiently paranoid that they can cope with the changes that must take place. At age 15, SolidWorks is in danger of becoming complacent, Mr Ray admitted, and so he watches to stamp out We-have-always-done-it-this-wayisms.
* On the Cloud
"Insanely overhyped." The key is file management, he feels, which has been set up by IT [information technology] people for managing data in an IT kind of way -- and not for engineers. The cloud has some attributes that can help eliminate barriers, such as making the right data available to the right people at the right time.
I asked about CPU off-loading, and he agreed that was another possibility. But he insisted that it had to be completely transparent so that the user didn't need to conciously set up the cloud-based rendering or FEA. This was a design criteria for SolidWorks, he added.
Any timeline of when any of this will be shipping, I wondered? "There is a timeline, but we are keeping it to ourselves for now."
* On the Relationship with Dassault
He said that visiting Dassault Systemes' R&D labs was an eye-opener for him, for that place is obsessed with technology; indeed, he remarked, Dassault was pushing DS SolidWorks in innovative directions.
"For the first dozen years, SolidWorks had to fight it alone. But now it is time to cooperate [with Dassault]” -- yet each keeping its different customer base. SolidWorks is no threat to Catia, and vice versa. "We are not going into big accounts, and Dassault is not going into our [SMB] market."
Then this zinger: "Customers are fed up with not being able to share data between Catia and SolidWorks." At some point, a translator will be delivered.
He ended our time by providing me with travel advice for Russia.
[Disclosure: SolidWorks provided airfare, accomodation, ground transportation, and some meals.]