Why Dassault Matters: 3D Design
I've been trying to figure out the collaborative design space,
so I went to the Dassault conference in Berlin last week.
Dassault makes three products in the design spaces: Delmia, an
industrial engineering product, Enovia, a PDM product, and its flagship
product, Catia, which does 3-D design.
Catia dominates industries like aerospace, automotive, shipbuilding,
or Frank Gehry--large design groups building very complex products.
Effectively, they own the 3-D design space. Competitors like Metaphase
have given up, and PTC works primarily in quite different kinds
of design (parametric design, as the name implies).
I knew this space was different from the transaction spaces that
we usually follow (ERP, SCM, CRM), but I didn't realize how different
until I walked into the exhibition hall and saw a) a 1/100 model
of the Cologne cathedral, b) a 3-D printer, and c) an explanation
of how Frank Gehry creates the skin of those wavy buildings, like
the Bilbao Guggenheim. (Hint: Catia is heavily involved.)
For some years, the large transaction vendors have portrayed PTC
and Dassault as aging, client-server products that will be rapidly
taken over by Oracle's or SAP's PLM initiatives. Well, all I can
say is don't go building revenue projections based on slicing off
revenue from Dassault. If anything, these products are going to
grab IT budget share in their industries, not lose it.
The reason is the virtual airplane. Dassault Version 5 carries
full support for a standard that will permit design groups to create
a single virtual model of a large object and have hundreds or even
thousands of people working on this directly. The idea was pioneered
by Boeing and Dassault on the Boeing 777, but it has only recently
begun to penetrate other companies and industries.
A perfect opportunity for a software company.
And Dassault Systemes (Nasdaq DASTY) is one of the purest software
companies in the world. With revenues of $1 billion, it is by no
means small. But $1 billion understates the case.
Some 15 years ago, they outsourced their entire sales and marketing
effort to IBM, who set up a special division devoted to Dassault
products. This division has revenues of roughly $1 billion. To compare
DASTY adequately with other companies that have their own sales
and marketing, you should probably treat it as a $2 billion company.
Dassault doesn't just want to grow within the 3-D space. They threw
up a slide about their future in manufacturing that shows as little
understanding of their ERP competitors as the ERP competitors have
It seems to me that the dividing line in the PLM (product lifecycle
management) space that they both claim comes at the point where
the product design is fixed. Collaborative design done after that
point (by Agile, Matrix One, Oracle) may best be done by the transaction
vendors. Before that--and that's where the money is--look to Dassault.
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