MCAD Tech News (#227)

14 Nov, 2007 By: Jeffrey Rowe

MCAD Still Converging in the Middle

As the separation diminishes between high-end and mid-range software, the customer gets more functionality for less money.

By Jeffrey Rowe

MCAD Tech News readers constantly ask me about my perceptions of MCAD industry trends. One of the most common questions is whether there is still a distinction between so-called mid-range and high-end MCAD packages. That always has been a loaded question, and it still elicits some pretty strong responses from both vendors and users. No one can argue, however, that the gap between the two is closing. In many global markets and vertical industries, the mid-range products are dominating the high-end ones that historically ruled. The reasons for the shift are simple -- increased functionality, lower cost of initial and sustained ownership, shallower learning curve, and better levels of interoperability (far from perfect, but better).

I recently read the synopsis of a study by 01consulting about the MCAD market in Europe. It reported results for countries and industries under two categories: high-end and mid-range. And, although it reported specifically on the European market, I think a lot of parallels can be drawn for the North American market.

Although the synopsis was quite short, it spoke loud and clear on the current state of the MCAD market and the perpetual battle between the mid-range and high-end products. The report shows that the top four European mid-range vendors are Autodesk (Inventor), SolidWorks, PTC (Pro/ENGINEER), and UGS (Solid Edge). That?s not too surprising, and is roughly what you?d also expect to see on this side of the Atlantic.

For the purposes of this study, the market consisted of three segments: high-end, low-end, and mid-range. The mid-range segment, which has clearly overrun the value of the high-end segment, is growing at more than 20% annually, leaving behind the high-end segment with an annual decrease of 5%. According to the study, the mid-range segment now holds more total market share (52%) than the high-end and low-end combined (48%).

As I have for the past few years, I contend that less and less separates the mid-range and high-end on several levels, although there are still some significant differences. However, an increasing number of users are able to accomplish all design tasks using a mid-range application. The mid-range has continued to put tremendous pressure on the high-end for the minds and budgets of potential customers, and it will increasingly exert this pressure and move into industries where it has had little presence historically -- especially automotive. (More about the mid-range push into automotive a little later). Read more