One of the most impressive developments to hit the Mac community in recent years has been the strong upward growth in Mac market share. Recently Apple announced at its World Wide Developer Conference this past June that in the past two years they have tripled their installed base of Macs, now upwards of 70 million.
This has meant that the demand for more native Mac software has also grown several fold and that there is now very strong and growing demand for engineering and CAD software on the platform, complimenting the already existent and strong penetration of native design software for Apple’s easy-to-use UNIX-based system.
Within this context we have seen German industrial giant Siemens and its PLM software division fully commit resources to, and produce, a shipping version of its market-leading PLM software NX 6 for Mac OS X. In this interview Architosh talks to Paul Brown, senior director of NX Marketing for Siemens PLM Software and Jim Phelan, Director of PLM Media Relations. We start this discussion with a description of what constitutes NX 6 for the Mac.
Anthony Frausto-Robledo (AFR): Paul thanks for taking the time to speak to me this morning. Let’s start from the beginning. What encompasses the NX 6 version for the Mac?
Paul Brown (PB): Sure. NX 6 for Mac includes all the core CAD/CAM technology found in the other platform versions, this means all the modeling and drafting functionality and all the assembly and collaboration tools…and of course the Synchronous Technology that has been much praised by the industry.
Jim Phelan (JP): Anthony are you familiar with our Synchronous Technology in NX?
AFR: Yes, I’ve written about it and have a general understanding. I understand it is a way to mix both parametric, history-based modeling functionality with aspects of explicit modeling. Is that correct?
PB: Yes, more or less.
AFR: I’d like to talk about that in more detail in a second. So the Mac version is more or less identical to the other platforms for NX?
PB: Almost. The Mac version doesn’t have the CAE (computer-aided engineering) items, the finite element analysis and engineering tools.
AF: Is that because the demand isn’t there for the most part or a porting issue?
PB: The demand. The analysis types are interested in other platforms like Linux for instance, where they can batch off big stuff to cost-effective Linux clusters where they can focus on pure performance while doing their engineering analyses.
AFR: So the demand was really there only on the “product design” side, is that correct?
PB: NX has a history of serving multiple platforms and so it made sense for us to add the Mac. There is growing interest among our customers with the Mac, especially on the front-end design side. And we are already seeing interest in the Macs being utilized for engineering workstations. In fact, last week we heard news of the first new large commercial deployment on the Mac. We found that delightful because it expands our base.
AFR: Right, I assume besides making your existing customers happy a big point of the Mac version is to expand your base and increase revenue?
PB: That is right. We don’t make any more money when our customers simply move to other hardware.
AFR: And speaking of revenue, what does a single NX license cost?
PB: Ranges start around 7,500.USD per seat. Things go up from there based on adding modules. Costs vary with modules and deployment size (number of seats).
AF: And what are some of the modules that can be added to the Mac version of NX?
PB: Nearly all the modules can be added except for the CAE (computer-aided engineering) modules. Some of the modules include the PTS, which is the Product Template Studio, CheckMate, and various other modules that add things like mark-up, etc cetera.
PB: It depends on the end state of design. For some industrial designers the end state is a pretty rendered picture that comes out of their workflow and design tool. If that is the case, that is best served in another package. We are stronger when the end state is moving that industrial designed object straight into mechanical design and engineering. In this way ID (industrial design) and Mechanical engineering can be tied in much closer.
AFR: What percentage of pure industrial design happens inside NX?
PB: Quite a lot. We have many larger customers who do all their industrial design exclusively within NX. NX has all the tools they need and they can do the beautiful renderings as well.
AF: I know for instance that SolidWorks licensed Luxology’s modo technology to add powerful state-of-the-art rendering and animation technology into the SolidWorks workflow. How do you accomplish your photo-realistic rendering technology?
PB: We have a partner in LightWork Design and use their LightWorks rendering engine.
AFR: I have noticed that even in this latest version of NX 6 for Mac you are using a standard X11 interface on Mac OS X. Why are you not using a native Aqua Mac OS X UI?
PB: This is certainly not a true Cocoa app and we don’t use the native user interface technology because doing so would have amounted to a massive reworking of the code.
Jim Phelan (JP): Plus, we have to factor in our product in larger heterogenous environments and our customers don’t want to have different UI’s across a range of platforms. So we use the common user interface for all platforms.
AFR: So this means even Windows gets the common interface?
PB: Yes. We have lots of large customers and in large heterogeneous environements it is important for the IT staff supporting NX to be able to know and work with one common user interface.
AFR: And TeamCenter utilizes the Apple Safari web browser, correct?
PB: Yes, not all of TeamCenter runs on the Mac but most of it.
AFR: You mentioned large customers several times. Can you tell me if you have any large customers who are utilizing the Mac version of NX 6 and can you mention any names?