As much as I’m interested in what new capabilities SolidWorks 2013 will bring, I’m much more interested in something else: Has Dassault Systemes SolidWorks Corp invested the resources it will take to make it a really good release?
For a number of years, there’s been quite a bit of FUD surrounding SolidWorks. It’s been well-known that Dassault is working on a new generation of the program. And, among serious users, it’s been well-known that some versions of the current generation have suffered from quality (stability) problems. Given a variety of clues—from comments made by DS CEO Bernard Charles, to some high-profile defections of key people at SolidWorks—it’s not unreasonable for users to be concerned that, possibly, DS is more interested in developing the next-generation SolidWorks than in supporting the current generation SolidWorks.
SolidWorks 2013 has been in beta for a while, and today is the official product roll-out. In support of this, SolidWorks has invited a number of journalists and bloggers to its headquarters in Waltham, MA, for a grand unveiling. While the festivities have yet to begin today, last night they hosted a clambake, where the attendees could mingle with SolidWorks folks.
I got to the clambake just a bit late, and took a moment to scope out the room. There, chatting with Aaron Kelley (who manages the DraftSight product for SolidWorks) was the man I wanted to talk to: Gian Paolo Bassi, VP of R&D for SolidWorks.
So, I made a beeline, to ask Gian Paolo about SolidWorks 2013.
I didn’t want to know anything about what was new in SolidWorks 2013. I wanted to know how serious the company was in developing it. That is, whether they’d done it right.
My first question was about the team that worked on SolidWorks 2013. Did they put their best people on the project, or did they outsource the development, possibly to contractors in India? I sometimes wonder what people must think of me when I ask such aggressive questions, but Gian Paolo had no problem with it—possibly because he had a good answer. They did the work in-house, using their “A” team. And they actually added resources, to make sure it was done right. Further, they improved their QA processes. The result, according to Gian Paolo, is a version of SolidWorks that is more stable than any in recent memory.
Gian Paolo pointed out that the number of beta testers on this version of SolidWorks was far greater than on previous versions. I believe he said it was around 4,500 users. They held three events, where testers flew to Waltham, to beat-up and shake-down the software.
Beyond improvements in stability, SolidWorks 2013 includes about 350 enhancements. I imagine we’ll hear much more about those today.
I actually had a rather extensive conversation with Gian Paolo on the issues of quality and performance. I didn’t take notes; My intention was to see if he was really giving SolidWorks 2013 the attention it deserves, or if he was so focused on the next-generation product that he was giving 2013 short shrift.
Here’s my take away: the current generation of SolidWorks is being actively developed, and is getting serious attention. Even though Gian Paolo may be excited about the work he’s doing on the next-generation product, he’s still putting major resources behind the current-generation product.
If you’re a SolidWorks user, I’d recommend getting your hands on SolidWorks 2013, so you can put it through its paces. My bet is that this release will be a good one.