Over the past few weeks we have witnessed a heightening in the marketing fued between Autodesk and SolidWorks. Ralph Grabowski has commented upon the antics of Autodesk's survey on saisfaction with SolidWorks (http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/blog/2006/01/autodesk_poll_b.html)
He also pointed out Autodesk's anti-SolidWorks signage during the Autodesk Univeristy 2006 event (http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/blog/2005/12/autocad_whats_n.html). It all seems very specious.
This kind of activity is nothing new: Back in the early days of MicroStation (and Bentley Systems) Scott Bentley was reportedly observed putting down footprints that led IGUG (Intergraph User Group) attendees away to a 'new meeting' with Bentley. None of us can remember the date except it must have been in the early '90's. (Maybe someone from Bentley can send me the date.)
Back in the '90s (was it 1998 I forget) I saw the hiring of several buses, painted with Bentley logos and branding, that were engaged to circle the Philadelphia Convention Center during the Autodesk University event there. The buses were empty, by the way. Last year (dec 2004), when I attended Autodesk U in Vegas, there was an obvious Bentley billboard as you left the airport headed for the hotels.
At SolidWorks World in January 05, Autodesk had a very blatant advert in the Orlando airport declaiming the position of SolidWorks. Autodesk also has reportedly run large page ads in local papers where SolidWorks World has been occuring.
At Autodesk U 2006 there were several puzzling signs in the press room promising the big fight between Autodesk and SolidWorks (http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/blog/2005/12/autocad_whats_n.html)
Evidently the attraction of detraction (of your competitors) has not paled.
"The American computer technology industry (both software and hardware) has a long and proud tradition of juvenile behavior regarding rivalry and pranks" says Randall Newton, AECnews.com "I see these campaigns as just more of the same."
But the people who matter in all of this are the users. Do they even notice what is going on? I asked a few people and by the time of this article a few resellers had responded.
"None of us really notice," says one source that prefers to remain anonymous. "We're too busy trying to sell software, and users are too busy using it, to pay attention to this nonsense."
Another: "I tend to listen to the street, not what is going on in marketing." says this SolidWorks reseller. "Users that buy SolidWorks love it and users who are forced to upgrade to Inventor by management because its cheaper tend to dislike it. Chat rooms, user groups etc "tend" to carry that message too."
So why does this occur?
My theory: This occurs because if a company does not respond in kind to an attack, it fears it will be regarded as weak. Some of the activity is simply tit-for-tat - they did it to us last year so we will do it to them this year. However the attacks can be quite aggressive, more so, I feel, than they need to be.
And yet the users don't actually appear to notice. So all this does is make a company feel better about itself. Yes, on consideration, I agree with randall - juvenile indeed.
So what will occur during SolidWorks World this week? Well, already I hear that Autodesk is holding a press conference this next week in Vegas, which is just when SolidWorks World is occuring... Quite coincidentally. I am confident that Bentley will have a few billboards up. I wonder what else we can find?
More coming on this next week.