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SolidWorks CEO Discusses the Mac Platform

A few minutes after I exchanged emails with Dominik Hoffmann, the originator of the SolidWorks for Mac petition, I had a chance to speak to SolidWorks CEO Jeff Ray. So I brought up the issue. Here’s our conversation (edited for length and clarity):

Question: What are your thoughts on the Mac platform?
Answer: There are some active, energetic, excited proponents of the Mac platform. I’m one of them; we run our house on Mac. We have lots of Macs in the building, scattered across R&D. We have a lot of love and respect for Mac and the way Apple delivers products.

Q: Does the Mac platform have any advantage over Windows?
A: The [Mac] user interface is what everyone sees and falls in love with, but the real power, I thought, is in the Operating System (OS) and how tightly it’s integrated with the hardware. Things just move faster in a Mac. In theory, a solid-modeler on Mac should be a high-performance product, because Mac optimizes the hardware and the software. Windows is an open platform — software or hardware, anybody can plug anything into it — so that kind of flexibility requires compromise.

Q: What is the possibility of SolidWorks on Mac?
A: For us to play in the Mac space, we have to be every bit as committed to that platform as we have been to Windows. Given the hundreds of developers we have working on Windows, we can’t just go to them and say, ‘Starting tomorrow, you’ll start working on Mac.’ It would be an offense to our subscription customers, who are paying us and trusting that we’re spending their money on what’s important to them. We’ve always been market-driven. When the market votes to do engineering design on Mac, we’ll be there. So far, the market hasn’t voted that way.That doesn’t mean it won’t change — I’m sure the day will come when we port [SolidWorks] to [Mac]. But that day isn’t today.

Recently, Ray began blogging. He revealed he spent at least half an hour a week with Matthew West, SolidWorks’ social media manager, to stay connected to the user community. If you’d like to learn what’s on the CEO-blogger’s mind, read his posts here.

For more on CAD on Mac, read “SolidWorks, OS X, Bootcamp and the Certification Quandary” by Al Dean.

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About Kenneth

Kenneth Wong has been a regular contributor to the CAD industry press since 2000, first an an editor, later as a columnist and freelance writer for various publications. During his nine-year tenure, he has closely followed the migration from 2D to 3D, the growth of PLM (product lifecycle management), and the impact of globalization on manufacturing. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst, Computer Graphics World, and Manufacturing Business Technology, among others.


  1. Isn’t Jeff Ray’s answer a bit ‘chicken and egg’..? Until the market votes to do engineering design on the Mac..? There are no good options at the moment..! Does SolidWorks want to be a market leader or follower? I think the first big name to go into the Mac OS space will have a big following. It is encouraging that Jeff Ray (and Jon Hirstich for that matter) are big Mac users. At least it’s not a completely unknown world for important people in the company.
    I’m not a programmer, but I’ve heard that people really like the Mac OS development environment once they make the switch. Let’s hope they put a few people on looking into it soon.

  2. Gavin: I understand Jeff Ray’s position, but I agree with you. I have a feeling market demand for SolidWorks for Mac — or CAD software on Mac — will increase if someone takes a chance and releases one. Now all eyes are on AutoCAD for Mac. Currently, Autodesk is conducting a survey to assess people’s interest in the idea.

  3. I love SolidWorks, but if PTC ever releases Pro/E for a Mac, I’m ready to switch back to Pro/E, just so I can be in an all-Mac environment. SolidWorks stands to lose customers by not being first on a Mac; whoever is first has a chance to grow their client base by stealing customers from other CAD systems.

  4. Matt: I’ve not heard PTC mentioning an interest in the Mac platform. In 2003 (it seems like ancient history now), the company tested the water with Pro/CONCEPT for Mac. The product is still around, but no longer on Mac. Let us know if you hear anything before we do.

  5. Even Autocad is considering the Mac. I’m running Solidworks on my Mac right now, through a windows installation in Parallels.

    If an applications as large and as complex as Blender3D and Modo202 can be developed in a platform agnostic manner such that they are available both on Mac and PC, I’m sure Solidworks can. Other CAD platforms, such as VectorWorks and Ashlar-Vellum’s modeling software are available on Mac and PC; I’m sure Solidworks can do the same. It’s not as if everything has to be coded from scratch; the algorithms that do all the heavy lifting can be coded in a platform neutral manner, and be plugged into interfaces built on each platform. Both are Intel platforms; I’m sure super optimized code can be done in assembly language and plugged into interfaces built for each platform.

  6. Siemens NX, Alias and Rhino are all coming on OSX. Oh and let not forget Autocad is considering Well that means they been working on it.
    So when is gonna be the wright time for a SW port? Perhaps the want to see how mane of their users will be converting to those other products…

  7. My business is a Mac shop, and we run SolidWorks under bootcamp and Parallels. Yes, I know it’s not supported. We might well go to SolidEdge when they do their Mac port (I believe it’s already been done for NX) – unless….
    And I assume Dassault have us down as a PC user. (I know their distributor is blind to Macs). So how on earth will they ever discover when the rest of the World has gone Mac? I agree, we all want to partner with leaders for tools like these – not (blinkered) followers.

  8. Just a little side note. Last summer we had an intern who had a new Mac Book Pro with 2 gb of ram. He had a copy of 2008 installed and running through an XP installation. To see how it worked we had him open an assembly of a grill we were working on. We timed it compared to the average time from our two monster XPS Cad stations each with dual processors and 4 GB of ram. CAD towers 3.5 minutes and 10.25 minutes(from local drive), I know and both are identical machines ordered the same day and with the exact software installs. Mac Book Pro just shy of 2 minutes (over WIFI). Through experimenting it did seem to run a lot smoother with less lag when making changes or switching view styles.

  9. Adam, Tony: I’ve heard some news suggesting Siemens NX’s migration to Mac might take longer than planned. I’m trying to get confirmation on this. Stay tuned.

  10. MJ: 10.25 minutes from local drive versus 2 minutes on WiFi? That’s unbelievable! I wonder if anybody has ever done benchmark testing of CAD on Mac versus CAD on PC in a controlled environment (like Tom’s Hardware usually does). Let me know if you’re aware of any test results.

  11. Unix+Intel+NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800=Apple

    so no need to talk about good hardware, just get down to business.Port or loss…simple as that.

  12. The concept of running on a MAC is a very interesting one. I for one am not a MAC user. But, if the apps I used ran on a MAC I would be game for making a switch.

  13. Siemens NX6 will debut on Mac OS-X at the PLM World conference the first week of June. Solid Edge (my current application of choice) will never port to OS-X. They would have to start from scratch for OS-X.

    This whole port was an Apple push believe it or not. They design Apple products with NX on the Unix platform. For some reason they want to develop Apple products on Apple hardware, go figure. So with the deal struck, the Unix based version of NX has been ported to the Mac. The interface is not the slicker Windows based UI but a Unix Motif. I’m sure if there are enough converts (me being one of them possibly) they will improve the UI. Still not bad though. Several videos now abound on Youtube. Search NX6, Mac

    This would have happened sooner but Apple neglected to tell UGS a few years ago that they were switching to Intel and they had to start over.

    So Kenneth…a story about NX on the Mac shortly?

  14. Ryan: I too heard that Apple had something to do with the push to bring NX to Mac. But this blog post at PLM World dated June 2008 gave me pause.


    I’m trying to have Siemens clarify where it stands with NX for Mac OS X Leopard. A story about the development of NX for Mac is definitely a good idea. I’ll work on it. Thanks for the input!

  15. You may be able to contact Bob Bradenstein via LinkedIn. He is the guy giving the presentation at PLM World (www.plmworld.org). My contacts inside Siemens say it’s slated to release in conjunction with Mac’s 64bit Snow Leopard this summer. And if they haven’t pulled the Youtube video’s down yet, it must be close.

  16. No way is SW faster on a Mac Book Pro
    than a Workstation. Sorry, but there isn’t any way.
    (I’ve tried several times, and it’s just too sloooooow.
    Maybe we all wish it was true, but it isn’t at this time.
    Emulation is just too sluggish to do production work on.

  17. Can you have your engineers work on both, Windows and Mac at there stations? Seriously, in your company, there should be a policy to support both and it would benefit the public as a whole. Mac’s are a more stable environment and stability is a huge benefit for a a program like Solid Works.

    Good luck.

  18. Bud: I like that approach. But I guess it would depend on the nature of the work and the industry you’re in. In publishing (where I’ve worked mostly), production editors (the ones who put together the layout of the magazine) are usually on Macs; the other editors (those who catch misplaced commas and wrangle freelance writers) are on PCs.

  19. Is anyone aware if Google is working on a 3D modeling program that has the potential to be comparable to Solidworks? They are already have SketchUp (which they give away for free) and have SketchUp Pro which is used by countless architects. It obviously has to do with their Google mapping but in only makes sense they make a 3D modeling program for product designers and engineers next. The reason I’m asking is they make it for Mac and PC…which leads me to believe they might come out with a 3D modeling program for Mac before Solidworks does.

  20. Dylan: I’m not aware of Google developing a mechanical CAD program. If that happens, it would certainly give the CAD industry a shakeup. SketchUp seems to have become the go-to conceptual 3D program for architects.

    I’m keeping a close eye on Google’s O3D initiative to see where it would go. For more on that topic, read:

  21. Whether Mac is faster or even slower when using Solidworks, I am
    prepared to deal with those (few) drawbacks & jump straight over, because I am at the point of complete exasperation with Windows based systems.

    Speaking very generally & simplistically, I just want a product that takes me from A to B without all the highmaintenance in between.

    Though I can understand Jeff Ray’s response, I have to confess it is quite un-inspiring; who really cares what you tell your developers? Provide good software on a better product & market demand will change to suit. If Solidworks only wait for their current market to dictate change before implementing it, let’s hope the ‘market’ is on the ball.

  22. Wayne: I share your sentiment about “market.” Most of the times, a company’s strategy is dictated by market conditions. But I also feel that a forward thinking company may anticipate a new or emerging market and prepare to meet its demands. SolidWorks is a stellar product, in my view, but it could gain huge advantage over its competition by exploring the Mac platform.

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