Yesterday was the first day of Dassault Systemes (DS) Annual Industry Analyst Event, and I had the opportunity to catch up with executive leaders across the company’s spectrum of PLM product brands (Catia, Solidworks, Enovia, Delmia, Simulia, and most recently, 3DVia). CEO Bernard Charles set a visionary tone by laying out DS plans to enable “true collaboration where people virtually image, share, and experiment” in three-dimensional technology. This vision has propelled the creation of the company’s newest brand, 3DVia — an online community where consumers can create and share lifelike 3D images and animations. It’s certainly a bold and interesting move by DS and it holds the potential to fuel a wave of growth beyond the mature PLM space, but there are lots of questions and implications in shifting from a core industrial customer-base to a consumer-oriented online marketplace. How will DS differentiate in a whole new landscape of customers and competitors? How will they simplify their complex 3D design tools for the everyday layman? How will the online subscription model evolve to promote networking and adoption while still capturing profits? And will the company place more resources on growing its PLM presence in consumer goods industries and marketing professionals given this direct B2C connection?

In support of this strategy, the 3D Via organization has initiated a series of technology and channel partnerships as well as acquired Seemage — a product document company specializing in desktop software that publishes 3D data to various document file types as well as the web. Given Seemage’s legacy success in publishing everything from assembly instructions to install documents to field service repair guides for automotive and aerospace customers, it seems the larger value will be in supporting core industrial clients who are seeking broader, end-to-end lifecycle processes from their PLM vendor.

In terms of PLM updates, DS has released its product version V5 SOA which leverages the federation and indexing capabilities from MatrixOne to create a common middleware stack across its three Enovia brands (Smarteam, VPN, and MatrixOne). This backend architecture investment directly supports the data management requirements for the company’s front-end 3DLive offering — a unified search and navigation view of 3D BOM geometries and analysis which pulls data across Dassault’s Enovia, Catia, and Delmia solutions as well as other outside sources of 3DXML data. The DS claim of this “openness” as a differentiator prompted a lively discussion from the attendees on the company’s definition of openness relative to its competition given the company’s longtime stance to keep its APIs proprietary. My take? Having open APIs to access 3D data is important but not enough, as companies always need further technical and enterprise context in order to make the right design decisions and avoid blindly interfacing to product data and centralizing for centralization-sake.

Roy Wildeman, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research