Last week, a little more than 5100 attendees and 130 members of the press gathered for SolidWorks 2010. Held at the Anaheim Convention Center, just south of Disneyland in temperate Anaheim, California, the annual user conference saw its numbers swell by approximately 800 attendees this year, up from the 4300 attendees from 2009. Given the temperate weather of the location and the demographic density of engineers in Southern California, the rebound was somewhat assured but the rise also speaks to the continued commitment and possibly a certain economic optimism of the company’s user community.
To kick off the event at the first general session, SolidWorks Jeff Ray’s brief welcoming remarks and overview of the days to come were followed by a short history of parent company Dassault Systèmes (DS) and the introduction of “his boss” Bernard Charlès, the DS CEO’s first keynote appearance at the annual user conference.
While the parent company has historically let SolidWorks run as an independent business unit for more than a decade, Dassault made its presence abundantly clear this year. In fact, Ray rarely appeared without Charlès, prompting some in the CAD media to rename the pair “Ray Charles,” Americanizing the pronunciation of the DS CEO’s last name.
“In 1997, I told [SolidWorks founder Jon Hirschtick], you have a choice: do an IPO or be backed up by a serious long-term investor with a family name like Dassault; I think he made the right choice,” Charlès told the crowd. “I think what could have happened is that the company, whose products users love, could have been bought by a competitor. The first message I have is that we are actively investing and investing for the long term.”
That active investment, and the biggest news of the three-day event, was the revelation that SolidWorks’ future products will progressively be rolled out on a Software as a Service business model to confront the persistent frustrations users have with the software (performance, reliability, update installation). To demonstrate the concept, Ray revealed a “sneak peak” tech preview of the new technologies to be rolled out in the years ahead.