PTC to retire SharePoint-based Windchill ProductPoint by 2012

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It was with some fanfare and a great deal of hubbub that PTC launched its SharePoint-based Windchill ProductPoint a couple of years ago (it shipped in April of 2009). Now, a scant two years later, the company is retiring the product from its price list.

Personally, this is something of a disappointment. SharePoint is becoming ubiquitous in many organisations. Any company that’s managing data in a smaller work-group environment is probably looking at it as a means of sharing and collaborating around documents. What ProductPoint did, like similar functionality built into Solid Edge Insight by Siemens (which predated PTC’s offering by a good few years), is add a layer of tools that gave SharePoint the ability to understand and manage the more complex data interrelations between CAD parts, assemblies and drawings. To me that was a compelling choice as a first step onto the data management ladder.

But it appears to be no more and to find out more, we got in touch with Tom Shoemaker, VP of product marketing at PTC.
Q. Is it true that ProductPoint has been cancelled/phased out?
A. Yes, in late April, PTC alerted its customers that it would stop selling Windchill ProductPoint, and would retire the product offering by the end of 2012.

Q. Why?
A. In truth, this was simply a natural outcome of our ongoing rationalization of our product portfolio. Although customer feedback regarding Windchill ProductPoint had been generally positive, particularly around ease-of-use, we found that many companies were still seeking broader and deeper capabilities, such as those delivered by our Windchill PDMLink.

In fact, with our Windchill 10.0 release, we made major enhancements to the user interface and system administration tools. As a result, we are now able to deliver to customers the deep product development capabilities they want without sacrificing the simplicity of the user experience. For SMBs, for example, Windchill PDMLink delivers a number of capabilities that just aren’t available in Windchill ProductPoint, such as multi-CAD integration, workspaces, and configuration management. (As an aside, in case your readers might wonder, PTC remains committed to the SMB market, and will continue to improve and enhance all components of its Product Development System to meet their needs.)

Q. What about customers that have already invested in it?
A. Customers on active maintenance will continue to receive standard support, and can even add licenses if desired, through the end of 2012. During that time, those same customers will also have the opportunity to upgrade to Windchill PDMLink at no charge. To ease the transition, PTC is providing migration utilities to Windchill PDMLink available to customers through the PTC Support Center.

Q. Does this mean that PTC doesn’t view SharePoint based solutions as a viable market offering for its customers?
A. Actually, quite the contrary. Microsoft’s SharePoint platform continues to be an effective way to collaborate and to share product content managed across our Windchill product portfolio. PTC believes in the value of SharePoint as an enterprise extension of Windchill, enabling social product development with Windchill SocialLink, program portfolio management with Windchill PPMLink, and access to Windchill content by users throughout the enterprise with Windchill Web Parts for SharePoint.

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Q. ProductPoint was launched officially to market in January 2009. That means it’s had just over two years crack at it. Where does PTC feel it failed in the market?
A. Our decision was based less on any failure of Windchill ProductPoint per se, but rather on our ability to deliver much greater capabilities in an equally user-friendly package with Windchill PDMLink as part of our Windchill 10.0 release.

Few thoughts

What’s interesting is how PTC is framing this as a success for Windchill 10. Yes, it’s clear that there’re lessons learned by PTC in terms of user experience when it comes to Windchill proper and there’s clearly been a lot of work done in Windchill 10 to make the system more current in terms of user expectations. But is the company that might have been tempted into the world of data management by a SharePoint-based solution going to be equally as attracted by a Windchill PDMLink installation? It’s good to see that PTC is offering existing customers an upgrade path and some form of migration assistance to move data. After all, adopting a data management system is a pretty heavy undertaking and, once complete, anything that disrupts that system is going to cause a serious amount of pain to both the IT infrastructure and the day to day operations of a design department.

Just back in March of last year, I spoke to Jim Heppelmann, CEO of PTC, about ProductPoint and how it was doing in the market. At the time, Heppelmann said that the original goal was to sell the system to 100 companies in the first 12 months and that target was exceeded by 40. 2010’s goal was 300, but after just one quarter they’d already hit 100, so were more than on target for 2010. I also asked Heppelmann about how important ProductPoint was to PTC, “From a revenue standpoint, it’s not yet that important because it tends to be small deals because that’s what we designed it for. So I think it becomes important as we get much bigger volumes and as we penetrate the SolidWorks and Inventor base with it.” So clearly something has changed.

Here’s the thing, ProductPoint was based on SharePoint – which is essentially free. as a result, the revenues that PTC could derive from a solution based on a free platform, was limited. There’s also the argument that if the CEO placed the importance of ProductPoint on “penetration of the SolidWorks and Inventor” user base, could we infer that the company isn’t doing exactly that as much as it expected? Also, removing a low-cost entry level PDM system when you’re on the cusp of launching your next generation solutions (in the form of Creo), seems a little off. Much of the concept behind Creo seem to be a series of smaller, more nimble applications that solve specific challenges in the product development process. Surely having a similarly small and nimble data management solution should be part of that? Windchill is many things. But small and nimble? I don’t think so. That’s where a SharePoint-based solution could have been the perfect match to Creo’s brave new world.


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