What a shocker! The premier 3D MCAD software organization, Dassault Systemes, announced a pure 2D drafting product with the business side based on an open source software model that provides free software. To find out more about the why’s and wherefore’s, Ray contacted Aaron Kelly, the head of this new business unit. My explanatory comments are within the brackets  .
What is your new position?
My new position is to lead the DraftSight business unit. I report into the DS SolidWorks Brand and am the General manager for this business unit. [Aaron was in SolidWorks product management for many years and has been with SolidWorks virtually since its inception – 15 years. He is a well respected SW executive.]
Where does the DraftSight organization fit within the DS and SW company structure? Is DraftSight a stand-alone company? How big is it? How is it organized?
The DraftSight organization has its own P&L and is made up of DS employees around the world. The team is made up of about 24 people in training, customer support, technical support, development, QA, marketing, product marketing, and sales.
What is the sales model, considering that the product is free?
The sales model involves selling value added services and/or products that are compelling for DraftSight users. DraftSight is free, but we are offering a service called DraftSight Premium Service. The DraftSight Premium Service includes a concurrent network license, access to the API extension (and updates) and Technical Support directly from DraftSight. This service is offered through all the Dassault Systemes direct and indirect channels. [It costs $250 per user per year]
Who are the target customers?
The primary target customers are existing DS customers who have a need to work with 2D and DWG files. This is a need, up until now, we have not had a solution for.
What is the cost/benefit to proposed customers?
We are trying to make is easier for our customers to invest in 3D and related technologies. By offering a low to no cost 2D offering, our customers can invest money allocated for 2D and use it to invest in 3D. The important thing we are trying to achieve is a superior user experience. It starts with an easy to download, free to activate product, shaped by a free, vibrant community, and is rounded out by professional technical support options.
Is the DraftSight product meant to completely replace 2D software from other competitors?
No, not really. Many of our customers today use DS products and our competitor’s [2D] products side by side. We are happy we are solving our customer’s needs where we can. We want the opportunity to either offer new 2D to 3D users who need it, expand the usage of 2D to those users who need it, but maybe cannot afford it, or replace competitor’s 2D software wherever a customer sees value.
How does DraftSight interface with other DS products? With non-DS products?
Many products from 3D CAD (SolidWorks and CATIA) to PLM products from DS read DWG files that DraftSight uses.
A focus on 2D is new for DS. Why now and what’s to come?
We are trying to solve customer problems. Customers certainly need to 2D functionality and DWG file capabilities. We are trying to help our customers. I think you are going to see many improvements in terms of social innovation tools – we are going to listen to our users with better community tools, we are going to build DraftSight based on user feedback. [Aaron went on to discuss that he plans to use crowd-sourcing from customers to vote on and thus select enhancements that they want.]
Where does the underlying technology come from? Is it Graebert? What is the impact of the Ares announcement on DraftSight?
We have a partnership with Graebert to use the ARES platform with DraftSight. We are in a very close partnership with Graebert and endorse their products for sale that have a different value proposition from DraftSight. For example, ARES Commander has a richer API and 3D as well as other features that DraftSight does not include.
What is the product future of DraftSight?
DraftSight is in Public Beta today. We will be shipping a released product in the coming months as well as a Beta version of a MAC release and a Linux release. Each DraftSight version was written specifically for the platform intended – either Windows, Mac or Linux.
If it’s free, how do you make money?
We make money by enabling our customers to invest in 3D as well as offering services around the free DraftSight product (DraftSight Premium Services). [The product, released on 22 June, about two months ago, has already had in excess of 40,000 downloads. Many fewer have signed service agreements.]
Why is this different than other free CAD products that have failed to be successful?
Customers are looking for more than free software. They want a real product with a future from a solid company, along with a long-term commitment, performance, multi-language offerings, and global support. We are offering this.
Is it open source? How do third party developers work with it?
Open source is not what our customers want. We do not offer an open source version at this time. [Rather, customers under the subscription plan have access to the API’s for adding software. In my opinion, this will slow down the development since all new code has to be done by DraftSight’s limited development team. On the other hand, this allows complete control over the software for quality and makes for a simpler development process for DraftSight.]
What are the support plans?
We have free community support for all users. Users have the ability to post questions to the entire community for feedback. We also have a support offering today that will enable a user to call, e-mail or even request remote access when applicable to help them out.
For more information about DraftSight go to www.draftsight.com .