The first thing SolidWorks‘ new CEO Bertrand Sicot did when he stepped up to the stage at SolidWorks World 2011 was to put to rest, once and for all, speculations about the future of its desktop CAD software.
“It will never be an either-or choice for you,” he said. “We will always offer locally installed desktop CAD. In the end, the market will tell us [what it wants] … the market is you.”
The comment drew a burst of applause, perhaps prompted by relief as well as delight.
Last year, when the company revealed its plans to investigate — and eventually develop — online services and cloud-hosted software, it unintentionally set in motion a series of reactions among some desktop loyalists. SolidWorks subsequently clarified that R&D works in cloud-hosted software didn’t mean the end of installed software.
“Now you’re probably asking: Is 3D CAD going to become an online application tomorrow? I don’t think so. I don’t think tomorrow, or anytime soon, you’re going to do everything you do in SolidWorks online. I just don’t think that’s going to happen,” said John Hirschtick, the company’s cofounder, during a virtual event called SolidWorks Innovation Day 2010. More recently, when Bertrand Sicot officially took the reins, he wrote in his debut blog post, “We’ll have three platforms — desktop, mobile, and online.”
His latest public pledge to preserve SolidWorks on desktop, made before the assembly at SolidWorks World in San Antonio, Texas, this Monday, was one more in a series of measures the company had taken to stem the tide of anxiety among desktop fans. In other words, a eulogy for the desktop version of SolidWorks is entirely unnecessary; the company isn’t planning to kill it any time soon.
Winning Hearts and Minds
Sicot’s first challenge may be to secure the trust of some SolidWorks users who are under the impression that a French invasion is imminent. As parent company Dassault Systemes, headquartered in the Paris suburb Velizy-Villacoublay, began to show a greater interest in the SolidWorks franchise, some SolidWorks factions voiced concerns that the takeover might change the character of their beloved engineering software. The fact that the new CEO, who succeeded Texas native Jeff Ray, happened to be French was bound to raise more red flags.
But the truth is, Sicot wasn’t a hand-picked Dassault insider. He was originally hired by SolidWorks, one of a handful of Europeans recruited by the company’s founders in 1997. In other words, Sicot, like early adopters of SolidWorks, took a chance on a fledgling American CAD company with his career. He was a SolidWorks loyalists. Will this revelation stop conspiracy theorists preparing to resist the advances of Napoleon’s Grand Army? Let’s hope so. Otherwise, a lot of valuable times could be wasted fighting the wrong war.