On PCB Chat this week we talk with Mark Hepburn, the new director of product management at Cadence. Some industry veterans may remember Mark from a few years back — he was with Viewlogic, Innoveda and Mentor in the late 1990s and mid 2000s. He spent the past eight years with Perception Software, a developer of collaboration software.
Fittingly, he joined Cadence just in time for its launch of Allegro Pulse, a new web-based platform for collaboration and productivity measurement and analysis.
Even for a software company, I’m sure it will be no simple task to analyze customer use and assess the ROI on the so-called “elastic licensing” Ansys just rolled out to enable customers to adjust on-the-fly to meet peak demands. I can’t imagine how crazy life will be for the poor soul who gets the hopelessly thankless task of sorting through all the customers who take advantage of this.
But the one hour rentals, the electronics simulation software company’s latest pay-per-use model, is less interesting for what it allows than for what it might foreshadow.
If I understand Ansys’s offer correctly, this is a bolt-on option for existing licensees, not a standalone offering. Useful? Certainly. Groundbreaking? Not so much.
But could true pay-for-play software be far behind? Reports have surfaced over the years of such licenses being available to certain subsets of users and in certain geographies. I’m unaware of it being rolled out on a wide level, however. It’s kind of like paying for a digital song that then disappears after five or 10 plays.
The emerging legion of new hobbyist/DIY and unconventional startups may be too attractive and otherwise too difficult for the larger players to land, however, unless they try something different. Many of these companies are not interested in paying thousands of dollars for a tool seat. They aren’t designers. They are hardware enthusiasts, and design is just a step in the process (or for some, a hurdle) to realizing their vision.
Even if the margins are weak or, more likely, the revenue elusive, will the sheer size of that audience be too tantalizing for the major ECAD companies to hold fast to their current licensing models?
In the end, Microsoft couldn’t pull the trigger. In Seattle, outside just wasn’t “in.”
The world’s largest software developer today named Satya Nadella, head of the the company’s Server and Tools unit, as its new chief executive. The 46-year-old Nadella becomes just the third person to lead Microsoft, one of the most successful and wealthiest companies ever.
So when John Thompson, Microsoft’s new chairman, says, “Satya is clearly the best person to lead Microsoft,” one wonders why it took so long for them to recognize it. Perhaps they had to go through the rituals before realizing the prettiest date was the one they already live with.
In opting for Nadella, Microsoft eschewed calls to go outside for an executive who might shake up its culture or sell of pieces to boost its share price. Like Intel, it chose continuity and engineering prowess over salesmanship and the flavor of the day.
My take is Microsoft’s culture isn’t the problem; it’s been the top management’s inability to establish the proper hierarchy to allow the brilliance of the company’s thousands of engineers to come through. Time and again, Microsoft has had great ideas on the drawing board, but been beaten to market by competitors that simply execute much faster (read: Apple). Under Nadella, that will have to change.
Clearly Nadella understands how hardware can drive software purchases. As head of Microsoft’s Server and Tools business, he led a $19 billion, 10,000-employee entity that is front and center in the world of cloud computing. As he told Venture Beat in an interview last May, “We broadly as a company are moving from a software company to a devices and services company, and that’s really the transformation, both in terms of technology and delivery – as well as business model. What I do, what our division does is very central to this.”
Given his knowledge of the hardware supply chain, we are eager to see whether Nadella sees value in pulling manufacturing in-house. Such a move could demonstrably alter the EMS landscape for years to come, not because Microsoft is a dominant customer of any of the major contract assemblers — Flextronics builds the Xbox, but none of the Top Tier EMS firms counts Microsoft at a 10% or more client — but because OEMs have a herd mentality and if it works for Microsoft, they will likely follow.
Thanks to the roughly $100 billion in cash Microsoft has on hand, Nadella will have the resources to get wherever he wants to go, and, with Steve Ballmer retiring and Bill Gates stepping down as chairman, he will have full authority to make the tough decisions without the specter of the founders looming over his shoulder. Those two decisions — cofounder Paul Allen stepped aside years ago and is now seen rocking out at Super Bowl parties for the Seattle Seahawks, which he owns — should not be downplayed, as Nadella will not only need the financial backing but the unmitigated authority to make Microsoft as successful in next three decades as it was in the last three.
What DigiTimes did not report, however, is that such arrangements extend to PCB CAD tool providers. In fact, Quanta is offering one major CAD tool vendor’s PCB software via the cloud. Users can access the tool on a fee for use basis.
What’s scary about this arrangement is the potential for havoc should a dispute arise between Quanta and its customers. Access to designs — in process or legacy — is critical, and if a design needs to be respun at 11 PM on a Sunday night, and the OEM doesn’t have easy access to the server for whatever reason, that’s going to be a problem.
Make that component and software distributor Avent.
For Magirus not only has an attractive footprint in Europe and the Middle East, but its product line centers on software and systems for storage, cloud computing, security, and information life-cycle management.
So in addition to adding more than half-a-billion dollars in revenue to the top line, Avnet extends its linecard into a very hot growth area.