It’s a wrap: A recap of PTC Liveworx 2023

May 26, 2023 | Hot Topics

Big user events are back! PTC’s Liveworx filled the Boston Convention Center, a full 12-minute walk from end to end. We had Creo users, Windchill admins, Codebeamer coders, Vuforia wizards, Servigitics partners, Thingworx implementers, ServiceMax users — and even some Mathcad and Creo Simulation people. Add in resellers, software and services partners, industry analysts, journalists, and investors; the joint was hopping. I wrote a bit about what I learned on day 0, the partner pre-event, so here are a few observations from the rest of the week:

For me, the big news out of Liveworx 2023 was Creo+ . Due out later this summer, Creo+ is Creo 10 (the latest desktop version) plus cloud-enabled functionality via Atlas, PTC’s software as a service (SaaS) architecture that’s based on Onshape and Arena technology. PTC said (many times) that one advantage to its SaaSy Creo+ CAD implementation is that it’s the same Creo code base, whether users access it on the desktop, via a thick client (today), or a browser “sometime in 2024”. That means (again, PTC said) that it can afford to maintain Creo and Creo+ indefinitely — the marginal cost of keeping the desktop version is … not much, so it sees no need to urge everyone to the Creo+ version. We’ll see how that pans out in the long term. Still, the customers I sat with during CEO Jim Heppelmann’s keynote were willing to consider this change to their working dynamic, especially if the “same code base” means the same user interface that makes them lightning-fast at what they do.

So why think about moving to Creo+? For the added benefits that Atlas brings. PTC showed off a few: live collaboration, where several users work on the same design at the same time within Creo+; design rev versioning and rollback; and easier administration. The designers around me were excited by the versioning and especially the rollbacks —it gives them the ability to try out alternatives and easily back out of them if they turn out not to be worth pursuing— but weren’t sure they needed (or wanted, TBH) that much collaboration. Still, they agreed that it could be helpful to collaborate with others from within a CAD session rather than going outside to another system that requires work to set up. (They had nothing to say about the admin; not their job, thank you very much. But I can see the utility in an easier admin workflow, one of the core value propositions of all SaaS offerings on the market.)

Two things of note: Creo+ will read Creo parts but not the reverse. If you change a part in Creo+, you can’t go back. This will be a challenge for groups that want to try a hybrid environment while they figure out the whole SaaS thing, but, hey, CAD people are used to working around these limitations, right?

Too, Creo+ will be a separate subscription —it isn’t, for example, bundled with each Creo desktop seat, as some vendors are doing to try to get people to move to SaaS solutions. PTC’s approach makes sense, given its “you choose” positioning of Creo+; if the choice truly is up to the buyer, PTC doesn’t need to entice or persuade anyone with sweeteners. But be aware: Creo+ requires an Internet connection to phone home (even for the thick client version sooner than the browser version).

If Creo+ will ultimately be in a browser, and Onshape is already in a browser, will they become the same product? PTC is adamant on this: no. NO. Creo/Creo+ and Onshape target different users, industrial problems, workgroup sizes, and data retention needs/policies … Creo/Creo+ is targeted at big companies, large assemblies, and power CAD users. Onshape will continue to be marketed to cloud-first users, with perhaps smaller workgroups and more modest data needs.

There was a lot of great news about the Ansys partnership, with a roadmap of coming functionality that doesn’t really convey the totality of what they’re doing. In addition to the announcement around Granta, the companies are working together to create smart, efficient workflows, improve accuracy and reduce compute time. But here are the types of use cases under development right now:

What else? PTC’s most recent acquisition, ServiceMax, got a lot of play — how service lifecycle management transforms product manufacturers into service-oriented organizations, with examples focusing on critical products in medical and industrial applications. But why does PTC get involved? Because as Mr. Heppelmann said, “A product can generate ten times more revenue over its life than it did through the initial product sale.” That’s a significant tail over the decades of a product’s life and must be included in design-related decisions right from the start. 

But what got me was this slide, from a Windchill session:

It’s the most articulate representation I’ve seen of all of PTC’s products in one place — look at how everything fits together, with data at the core, fed out to/from design, services, manufacturing, documentation, and so on. Sometimes PTC’s acquisition strategy seems a bit “shiny-new-thing” focused, but it’s all coming together.

And that may be the most important takeaway from Liveworks: PTC is paying attention to its bread-and-butter brand, Creo, and putting it at the center of the rest of the offer. If there’s no design, there’s no need for the rest.

Creo 10 (and, presumably, the Creo+ that will be released this summer) includes a LOT of new features that are critical to manufacturing: usability enhancement, more on composites, more lattices for additive, new simulation features (with Ansys and in-house) and so on — see here. PTC is big enough and has the resources to do many things simultaneously; it’s not ignoring CAD for the services part of the portfolio or PLM for the Codebeamer users. It’s looking at the integrated whole, the idea that the parts sum up to something bigger. And that’s good.

Note: PTC graciously covered some of the expenses associated with my participation in the event but did not in any way influence the content of this post. The cover picture is of CEO Heppelmann’s keynote, and the slides are from various sessions; all were taken by me.