PTC Provides a Peek into Its Development Labs

January 16, 2009

4 Min Read
PTC Provides a Peek into Its Development Labs

PTC, not a company knownfor opening its R&D kimono, gave analysts and journalists a directionaloverview of what's percolating in its development labs as it outlined keystrategies for its product roadmap and provided some specifics on forthcomingproducts.

Ease-of-use functionality and accessibility, particularly asit relates to user interface and Web 2.0 functionality, were a common themeacross most of the forthcoming product enhancements, all part of PTC'scontinued efforts to promote use of 3-D CAD and PLM tools beyond the coreengineering organization. The company also announced the availability of WindchillProductPoint, a platform for sharing product development-related data basedon Microsoft's SharePointplatform, and PTC's executive team played up the role of SharePoint's Web 2.0capabilities, including wikis, blogs and presence detection, as key to usheringin new ways of engineering collaboration.

"Social product development is an area that has a lot ofenergy right now," says Jim Heppelmann, PTC's executive vice president andchief product officer. "It will make big changes in the way people do productdevelopment."

PTC is hoping the introduction of ProductPoint has thatkind of impact, particularly on the SMB market. Windchill ProductPoint extends the SharePoint platform for sharingmulti-CAD product development data, giving smaller companies a less expensiveand easy-to-deploy solution for managing CAD files compared to PTC's enterpriseWindchill PDMLink solution. Like the enterprise PDMLink, ProductPoint can beused to manage Pro/Engineer and other CAD data, and the tool enables visualproduct interaction via 3-D thumbnails, lightweight viewing and Web-basedmarkup tools. Unlike PDMLink, however, ProductPoint does not facilitatemulti-stage approvals or sophisticated change management and configurationmanagement functions.

PTC believes ProductPoint will have a significant impact forsmaller companies that have been locked out of the PLM world as well as fordepartments within larger companies that have bought into the SharePointarchitecture and are in need of a basic product data sharing and managementtool. "There's really a gap in how (product development) teams work togetherespecially now that they're global and not co-located," says Lee Garf, PTC'svice president of product management. "While first generation collaborationtools focused more on file sharing and Web conferencing, this next generationis taking it a step further."

Analysts say PTC's early bet on the SharePoint architecturecould eventually have a deeper impact on the enterprise Windchill offering. "PTC believes SharePoint has thepossibility to mature into a fully capable Web environment that can rival thecurrent Windchill architecture," says Jim Brown, president of Tech-ClarityInc. "PTC is placingbets on both approaches so they have the flexibility to take advantage ofSharePoint more fully when (and if) it is mature enough. In the meantime, theygain some very nice social media capabilities for Windchill and ProductPoint."

Beyond ProductPoint,PTC provided a sneak peek into its product development labs. As outlined byBrian Shephard, division vice president for PTC PDM, here are some highlightsof what's to come:

--An overhaul toMathCad, due out in late 2009/early 2010, which emphasizes enterprisefunctionality along with new ease-of-use capabilities like a task-based,document-centric user interface and a revised equation editor that simplifieshow equations are input.

--Pro/EngineerWildfire 5.0, due in June, which will feature real-time regenerationfunctionality for easier interaction with complicated models along withimproved regeneration failure handling so the tool is more forgiving of modelerrors. UI enhancements include a ribbon-based interface focused on tasks, newdrawing trees and improved printing features. A new rib tool will automate workassociated with creating plastic parts, while new welding features will enableengineers to model welds as a feature in an assembly. New connectivity optionsinclude new 3-D import wizards for easier interoperability along with featuresthat make the transition from 2D to 3D easier.

--New ProductPointreleases, including a mid-2009 version that is integrated with Wildfire 5.0 andManikin and offers scalability functionality, including FIRST deployment forWeb farm configurations and MOSS enhancements. In early 2010, a ProductPoint2.0 release will deliver extended social product development, multiCAD datamanagement features along with an advanced release management module.

--Windchill 10.0, ontap for 2010, featuring a clean Web 2.0 look, expanded MCAD/ECAD softwareintegrations, support for top-down design methodology, expanded features formanaging design variants and additional digital mockup visualizationcapabilities. Enhancements to the platform's multi-level compare reports andcommunications capabilities are designed to improve change management andconfiguration management processes.

--WindchillRequirementsLink, a new set of functionality for Windchill 9.1, due mid-year,designed to help engineers collect and manage user requirements as part of thePLM environment.

PTC officials alsolaid the groundwork for future acquisitions, particularly smaller deals thatcould plug in holes in the product portfolio or give the company access to newtechnology, particularly in the area of ECAD-to-MCAD integration and embeddedsoftware capabilities. Officials did downplay any potential sale of PTC, whichhas been rumored for months, given the current economic climate and its impacton a potential selling price.

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