Monday, September 22, 2008

What's Next for Parametric Technology?

Sunday's column explores the question of where PTC, the design software company in Needham, went astray, and what's next for the company. (It's reportedly up for sale.)

Here's the opening:

    Here is one safe prediction you can make about technology: It will eventually be democratized.

    Computers were once tools used by almost exclusively by PhDs. Videocassette recorders were developed initially for television broadcasters. Cellphones? GPS? The Internet? Photo-editing software? Developed first for professionals and academics - and used today by just about everybody.

    Unfortunately, one of the region's biggest software companies, Needham's Parametric Technology Corp., has spent much of its history betting against democratization. PTC's flagship product is a sophisticated - and expensive - software package for engineers and product designers whose work involves the creation of three-dimensional objects.

It feels like a clear "innovator's dilemma" case study to me.

Here's the video that goes with the column:

Update: Got a call from Nicole Rowe on Monday, who heads corp. comm. at PTC, explaining to me that the company does, in fact, believe in democratization -- just not in a consumer market for 3-D modeling software. (I said that I didn't really understand the distinction between those two things.) Rowe pointed out that PTC does offer a free, downloadable limited-functionality "personal edition" of its CoCreate software.

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