The rise of the MicroISV - small (sometimes a single person) independent software vendor - might be the jolt that the Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) analysis industry needs to break free of the current trend of ever more expensive tools offered by established CAE vendors. Just as the Google Lunar XPrize attempts to jumpstart a new outer space industry, MicroISVs have the potential to forge a brave new software frontier.
Have you heard the one about a MiG 23 serving as the launch vehicle for a Google Lunar XPrize entrant? It is the first stage of Team Cringely's concept to win the $20 Million XPrize to be the first team to land on the moon and send back some pictures. Yes, the (Bob) Cringely of Triumph of the Nerds and Nerds 2.0.1: A Brief History of the Internet fame. In a MicroISV style, Team Cringely is a lean operation and aims to turn a profit by winning the XPrize.
The Space Shuttle solid rocket boosters are to a MiG 23 what the current crop of CAE bloatware is to our lean Caedium system. The billions of dollars in yearly revenue of the CAE industry are tightly held by a few big players such as CATIA, ANSYS, PTC and Siemens. If there's a lesson to be learned from Cringely's Triumph of the Nerds, it's that the mighty, read IBM, can be floored by the micro, read Microsoft, who sold DOS and later Windows in huge numbers.
Bill Gates quickly realized that there's money - a lot of money - in selling software to the masses. Of course it's not enough to just repurpose existing low volume software to high volume sales by lowering the price. This approach will swamp your support channels. It takes a fundamental shift in attitude, and therefore a different kind of company, to address the needs of the mass market and create a product that is easy to use and affordable.
The reason why the price of existing CAE software has remained elusively out of reach for small businesses and hobbyists is a lack of competition and innovation. Yet this comes at a time when the barriers to developing and selling software are exceedingly low. Given a commodity PC running either Windows or Linux, the tools to develop and market software on the Internet are within the grasp of most well motivated entrepreneurs. Testament to this fact is the rise of MicroISVs, such as Symscape with our inherently lean operations resulting in our affordable Caedium unified simulation environment.