Last week in Boston, PTC launched Creo, a new family of design software, which CEO Jim Heppelmann proclaimed "is the biggest innovation in the industry in years”. In great theatrics in a castle-like stone building, four men in orange jumpsuits labeled “Efficiency”, “Creativity”, “Value” and “Innovation” were paraded around and locked in a prison cell. The metaphor was clear, if over the top, (and continually reiterated throughout the eve
Newer CAD technologies such as direct modeling add to the complexity because models created using these methods are difficult to incorporate into exiting large-scale systems designed primarily using parametric modeling.
But PTC is determined to change all that. Creo (http://creo.ptc.com/) is a suite of individual light-weight role and function-specific "apps" built on a common open database.
- “AnyRole” apps will be built around specific user tasks. The intent is to democratize CAD data and make it available and useful for all, including the proverbial "casual user." These apps include traditional parametric design capabilities side by side with apps that offer the flexibility of direct modeling. PTC's current products: Pro/Engineer, CoCreate, and ProductView will be renamed “Creo Elements”, e.g. Creo Elements/Pro.
- “AnyMode” modeling capabilities exploits a single data model to deliver cross-apps interoperability and model persistence. PTC demonstrated using a direct modeling app to modify a full-fledged parametric model. When the model was re-opened in the parametric app, the changes were highlighted and could be worked on. Siemens PLM's Synchronous Technology promises similar functionality, although there may be subtleties here that will offer Creo's users a more complete and persistent modeling experience.
- "AnyBOM” capabilities will extend Windchill PLM and make it accessible directly from the design environment. This is a much needed capability. Engineers design subsystems and assemblies that can be built and installed in many configurations, but are unable to verify more than a few configurations. Creo promises to give designers better control over "real world assembly" of multiple BOM configurations, features and options.
- The multiple apps and the "AnyX" strategy are enabled by a common open “AnyData” database to import, store and manage CAD data from any source. The value for Creo users is clear, but if the proposed method follows the general workflow of importing a foreign CAD model and managing it in Creo from that point forward, are we not re-incarcerating the data in the Creo jail?
PTC is developing Creo as an open system and plans to offer a platform on which third parties can develop their own applications. The repeated emphasis on iPhone-like "apps" led to the inevitable question “will there be an app store for that?” It was obvious that some PTC spokespeople like the analogy, but the Apple apps store model does not really apply here, at least not directly. Creo apps will need to support extensive and complex interoperability and communication within and outside the platform in a manner that is much more than a collection of gizmos and gadgets.
Critical to the success of Creo is the availability of a developer community. PTC discussed the evolution of a partner ecosystem, but was very short on specifics. PTC will need to drive a vibrant user and developer ecosystem, publish and evolve APIs. and recognize that eventually the user community will have growing input into the product roadmap. Communities like Aras PLM are doing that successfully.
In all the hoopla about apps, many in the audience, maybe even PTC itself, may have missed the potential role that Creo may play in helping PTC get value from some strategic acquisitions it has not been able to fully leverage, such as ArborText, Relex, and PolyPlan. Despite best intentions, these products never quite found a proper place in PTC's portfolio, even under the unifying Windchill umbrella. Creo Elements/Reliability and Creo Elements/Publisher make a lot of sense.
PTC certainly demonstrates real-world understanding of product development and ability to recognize and respond to real-world user needs. Under Heppelmann leadership, the company is willing to offer fresh approaches to delivering engineering software applications. This is quite refreshing; too often we receive a demonstration from a software vendor that begs the response "you may have seen the movie, but you have never done it yourself."
Benefits for PTC's existing customers will vary. Democratizing CAD and making it accessible by more decision-makers, including casual users, is very important, and PTC's Creo, like Siemens PLM's HDPLM announced a couple of months back, is a very important step in that direction. Giving more people in the organization easy (and low cost) access to CAD data through purpose-built apps and user interfaces for different roles will improve fidelity and confidence in product related decisions. To that end, the use cases presented by PTC ignored the need to incorporate non-CAD data such as costing and supplier information.
PTC can deliver the software, but organizations wanting to exploit the full potential of the Creo will need to change. They will need to think about product development more holistically, incorporating multiple data types and disciplines (CAD and non-CAD) early in the design. They will have to get used to "casual users" having significant input into the design. Those that embrace this approach will benefit from what the Creo suite has to offer.
Is there enough to cause customers to switch? Probably not. There is certainly potential value for existing customers, but it will be a while before the Creo suite has enough richness of apps from PTC and third parties to make a significant difference in the way engineers use design software.
For the time being, PTC's existing customers are protected. Customers will get a license to the Creo apps and capabilities that correspond to what they already have, and the migration path appears straightforward, as the new Creo apps are designed using elements of the current PTC software.
What is your opinion? Do you agree with Jim Heppelmann that Creo is the biggest innovation in the CAD industry in years?