Dassault recently announced it was going to buy ICEM (see press release). Is this yet another example of a big CAD company gobbling up a smaller one? Or does it change the game?
The other leading surface modeler, Alias, was acquired by Autodesk more than a year ago. This did not seem to ring alarms with high end MCAD vendors who probably expect Autodesk, a self-professed vendor of CAD for the masses, to relegate Alias to the design of toasters and toothbrushes. Autodesk would not be expected to encroach on their contracts with Big Auto, Big Air and "Tier 1" suppliers, the most highly coveted customers in the CAD world.
But Dassault buying ICEM -- that's a different story.
ICEM is already in use by automakers, aircraft and consumer product companies world wide, the giants in industry. It is widely recognized as an industry leader in sophisticated surface modeling. A win with these companies can mean thousands of licenses of CAD software, continued revenue with annual maintenance fees, earn big-time bragging rights for the vendor -- not to mention make a salesperson's career.
With ICEM, Dassault has gained important technology that is valuable for manufacturing companies in automotive, aerospace and consumer products. These companies may have used ICEM for surfaces while using MCAD products such as Pro/ENGINEER and Unigraphaphics for modeling and manufacturing. Dassault may hope to exploit the ICEM/CATIA connection, a strong connection already but bound to only get stronger now that the products are under one roof. Does this place existing PTC and UGS installations at risk and give Dassault an extra advantage for new sales?
Leveraging ICEM to gain shares in the automotive market is what PTC hoped to do when it acquired ICEM in 1998. PTC must have had little success, as it unloaded ICEM only four years later, spinning it off as a separate company.
Probably the competition most affected is UGS which until now could claim it had a more robust surface product than CATIA.
While Dassault may not entirely change the game with this acquisition, it does scores an important victory in the minds of all CAD users with this acquisition. Dassault's CATIA already enjoys a rarefied reputation among engineers. Ten years ago, CATIA had already been used to model the entire Boeing 777 -- down to the nuts and bolts. This was when other MCAD products were still getting off the ground (get it?) proudly showing a landing gear assembly with dozens, that's right, dozens of parts. Now add to CATIA's reputation with a product that can create the sexy curves of the world's most seductive cars and you have a killer combination of strength and sex appeal.