oLONG BEACH, CA (PTC World Event) -- As I wasted way too much time online shopping for my own Father's Day gift, a GPS unit (hey, kids need help!) it occurs to me I should just walk into a store and pick one out. It may not be the perfect one, maybe I'd pay a bit more, but this should not be a big decision. Aren't they all pretty much the same?
It's not like picking out a CAD program, right?
Wrong. CAD programs are pretty much the same. That message came from a most unlikely source: the recent PTC press event. As you can see below, Pro/E, CATIA, UGNX, SolidWorks, Solid Edge -- even Inventor-- occupy the same horizontal space, which I am interpreting as robustness or capability. PTC meant to show that the brass ring goes to the company with the better data management solution (their Windchill product) but I'm floored by an implication of parity from a company in a competitive market -- especially a company whose long-standing insistence on product superiority has bordered on arrogance.
I mentally play back the tapes of previous presentations....and sure enough, a common thread emerges. CAD executives have been deemphasizing new features and capabilities, like they've been running out of stuff to add, running out of ideas, reluctant to compete feature by feature. Even my own readers have suggested that reviews and comparisons are pointless. I had attributed this attitude to fatalism and weariness. Few readers actually get to pick a CAD program as it is usually thrust upon them. Also, reviews have suffered from grade inflation in the hands of non-critical, vendor-friendly reviewers. Oh, don't get me started. But more on topic, I may have been closing my eyes to a creeping parity. Maybe they are all the same?
No, I refuse to give in. CAD programs are complex, nuanced, problematic. They have strengths and weaknesses.
So I still beg for a show down and shoot outs, a white knight of a publisher with guts and brains. How about pitching Pro/E against SolidWorks, as both claim to have solved filleting problems (yeah, right!). I ache for someone to put interoperability claims to the test, as one CAD vendor after another claims to work in multi-CAD "ecosystem."' (Or could they just stop saying "ecosystem" when they just mean system?). They can't all be the same. If we can find split hairs on GPS units, digital cameras, washing machines, why can't we be critical of CAD programs? I can find a half dozen good sites to compare the latest cell phone, something I will spend $50 on and have for a year, maybe less. Yet, no similar site exists for CAD programs.
Not long ago, I sat in embarrassed silence in an group of engineers as we were asked if anyone had analyzed the presidential candidates. Nobody had. And we're the kind of people who make spreadsheets to determine which screw to use.
Could there be such a thing as:
Roopinder's Law: The amount of analysis is inversely proportional to the importance of the decision.