Middle-market CAD users shouldn't pay a penalty in performance by getting lower or restricted functionality, or by being forced to pay a UNIX price, Stefanik says.
Design News: What is the "wow" in CAD today?
Stefanik: What is "wow"--what's perceived as exciting--is ease of use. That's what everyone touts, and what all vendors claim for their products. What should be "wow" is what's in the software that makes it easy to use for all functions in the company, what helps users to get to market faster, and what improves product quality. The focus should be on what is good for the end user, such as maintaining design intent and ensuring quality. We think integration is important for the end user and the company, and we emphasize that aspect of our products. The engineer/user shouldn't have to be an integrator.
Q: You have users in other countries. Are there different things that appeal to engineers about CAD overseas?
A: In Europe, engineers look for the answer to a business problem. In both Europe and Asia, there is an emphasis on long-term consistency and process. In the U.S., there is more emphasis on flash. U.S. engineers are free to experiment more and work in an independent environment.
Q: Is there any such thing as mid-range CAD?
A: We call it a "middle market" instead of mid-range. Engineers in the middle market need the capabilities normally associated with an expensive high-end product, but want to run that software on a low-cost platform. High-end companies offer their solutions on UNIX. The high-end market wants to protect its revenue stream so they bring out limited or controlled versions of their software to address the middle market. With Applicon, all of the same software runs on UNIX and PCs, the same functionality on each platform at a middle-market price. We don't think middle-market users should pay a penalty by getting lower or restricted functionality, or be forced to pay the high UNIX-based price. Applicon also gives the user the flexibility to operate in a heterogeneous environment, i.e. mix PCs and UNIX platforms together and share files.
Q: What will be the Inter-net's affect on engineering software?
A: It has the possibility to take us back to the future. Much of the CAD business started as time-sharing. Today, software vendors can send, install, and support software over the Internet. But to be commercially viable, we'll need a bullet-proof accounting system. The biggest effect from the Internet will be to dramatically change how we distribute and support our product. The sooner a bullet-proof accounting system is in place, the sooner that will come about. Internet distribution of software will probably start with analysis software. Engineers could check the latest versions out of a library, use the software to perform an analysis, and then release the software. The user would then be on a meter and charged only for the time used.
Q: Applicon is one of the oldest names in CAD/CAM, one of the pioneering companies, and yet it has been nearly invisible in the last couple of years. Where have you been?
A: The company had some systemic problems to correct. For example, Applicon had depended on only one platform. Also, we had to update our modeler. Now, we have put all our products on the PC in addition to UNIX platforms, and we have completely re-priced them for that platform. We have purchased strategic new technology, and we have created new features and functions. During that time, our customer base has been very active, strong, and supportive. We have created a vital International Steering Committee (ISC) that meets four times a year. The ISC members come to our headquarters to review product planning and direction and to test drive the software under development. These customers then be-come our early-release sites by installing the software and helping us to optimize performance.
Q: What is the value of one-stop shopping for CAD?
A: Vendors who sell single point solutions can only refer their customers who may need or want other software products to another vendor. When that occurs, the customer becomes the integrator, and when there is a problem you have several vendors pointing at each other as the culprit, with the customer in the middle. Applicon offers a complete and integrated solution.†