|Photo from Flickr user Mrpbps|
"The market for CAD in the cloud is tiny". From my own experience the biggest problems with CAD tends to be the ability to easily share the most up to date version of a design. Multi nationals are increasingly becoming more fragmented both in physical locations and virtual They are running on a huge variety of hardware from smartphones to hosted servers and the desire to have a central location which can store, version and deliver to those devices the most up to date design is increasing. Many organizations set up their own CAD in the cloud, with CTOs making major hardware and software purchases to run a network of storage and computing devices. These companies spend huge money of these services often to support all aspects of the organization, not just design and development.
Now certainly there will be a market for independent designers and smaller organizations who do not require CAD in the cloud. Independent contractors will need some form of desktop application that gets the job done without a monthly or yearly fee that cripples their business. Small organizations and start-ups that still manage on a handful of machines, sometimes with as little as one or two true CAD users will also enjoy a model that does not need a yearly investment for the upkeep. Large organizations, where up time is critical, designs are passed across continents to allow 24 hour design time, will be able to produce the ROI required to keep the service model alive. Again, the independents and small organizations (that one day will be much more) should not be discarded nut to relegate the large organizations to a "tiny" piece of the market is just wrong.
There are thousands of organizations who are far from being experts in the networking services required to support their own organizations, so what is the benefit to them to stay current on it? The SaaS model that many reference when discussing CAD in the cloud is quoted as being "we own your designs and sell them back to you", which simply isn't true. IP does not transfer ownership simply because of the storage location. This is never how ownership works. If it did you better believe every person using gmail is screwed, GoDaddy would be worth 50x what it currently is, and banks would not be going under (okay maybe they would still would). That is not to say users should ignore the security risks and transferability concerns. Building a design on top of a proprietary system and relying heavily on the backend to always be there is a concern. Renting back the systems to access your own data IS a concern and though everyone would like to build a monopolistic company competitors and customers will see through this. The debarte and discourese that Matt and others point out is entirely warranted which is why I think some form of hybrid model will eventually be adopted. Pay as you go with a strict out fee or known ability to pull a design at any given time. Sure the design may become outdated but that becomes a question of backwards compatibility. Who has not at one point been bitten by the advancements of technology making yesterdays news obsolete. No one is arguing that an iPod should be able to play 8-tracks.
So long as the designs can be exported to some form of desktop system the market for a service that allows editing, storage, sharing with operational systems, transfer, and referencing of CAD designs is very large. It remains to be seen if Solidworks is the software, or Dassault the company, that will ultimately deliver a usable package but be certain that someone will and when they do their business will not be "tiny".
See Matt's original article at his blog Dezign Stuff