Are they headed toward NT or staying with UNIX?

A fast-growing segment of the Windows NT market is engineering solutions. Formerly restricted to UNIX platforms, this software industry is rapidly adopting NT. Two years ago, no NT-native engineering software was available. Now most major developers offer NT solutions. In that time, the NT market share in engineering has gone from zero to 5%, and that figure will grow by more than 50% in each coming year (and NT's total growth will be 150% per year).

This growth is because NT offers a high-powered computing environment on less-expensive hardware than is typical of UNIX. Sun Microsystems SPARCstations and HP 9000s go off the price scale when compared to equivalently powered Pentium Pro and Alpha workstations. (LINUX can run on low-end Intel-based systems, but these are generally not the choice for the fast-paced design and production of critical components: Such work requires compute-intensive tasks such as simulation, finite element analysis, and CAD).

To see where this industry is headed, you need to break it into several key development areas: mechanical design, electronic design, architectural engineering and construction, and analysis tools. Also, two related, if not directly involved, fields in engineering are scientific visualization and automation and control.

Each development area consists of several technologies and companies with products aimed at specific purposes. Mechanical design includes CAD, with embedded manufacturing capabilities and solid modeling. Electronic design encompasses tools for schematic capture, IC design, circuit simulation (analog and digital), PCB layout, and prototyping (such as FPGAs), and others. Architectural engineering and construction applications provide the design, visualization, and planning of architectural systems. Analysis tools cover finite element analysis for aeronautical, aerospace, and other mechanical systems. The remaining two fields, scientific visualization and automation and control, involve (as their names imply) scientific data analysis and visualization, and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) with discrete- and process-control products.

Now that you know how the engineering industry breaks down, you need to know who the players are, what their products do (if they have NT-native versions), and how they're doing in the market. Calculating market share depends on not just the installed user base, but on the price of the software. When one license of an electronics design system can cost $20,000, you won't find as many installations as for one costing only $2000. So, you have to look at total revenue, too.

The Windows NT share is growing significantly out of the new software revenues for the next few years, rather than cutting into existing sales on other platforms. The Total columns show total software sales worldwide for all OSs, for all types of applications. The Windows NT columns show NT's share of the total market, and the UNIX column shows the corresponding UNIX share.

The total worldwide software market for 1995 (estimated, from a report by Dataquest) was $89,491 million, with Windows NT accounting for $4848 million (about 5.5%). UNIX took in $17,671 million (19.7%), and Windows 3.X got the lion's share with $26,155 million (29.2%). Other operating systems (DOS, Macintosh, OS/400, etc.) make up the difference. The CAD/CAM and computer-aided engineering (CAE) market accounted for $5,800 million (6.5% of the total market, according to a report by Daratech), with UNIX taking the leading position at $4374 million (4.9% of the global market and 75% of the CAD market), and NT clocking in at $215 million (0.3% of the global market and only 4.9% of the CAD market).

Distilling all this gobbledygook reveals that the NT engineering market is growing by leaps and bounds. Although NT is not biting large pieces out of the UNIX share, NT is taking up most of the potential market growth. By the end of the century, UNIX and NT will be neck and neck (for projected values for 1996 through 1998, see Graphs 1 and 2). Don't, however, make the mistake of thinking that UNIX is disappearing. Quite the contrary: The UNIX market is growing substantially, at about $600 million per year (about 10% growth). The UNIX market just isn't growing as fast (percentage-wise) as the NT segment (averaging $150 million per year; about 40%). The NT share is small now, but as users and vendors continue to embrace this versatile OS, the numbers will shift.

Key Players and Trends
What exactly is happening in the engineering marketplace? Both the user and vendor communities are contributing to an inexorable push toward NT. The users want NT's ease of use, power, and flexibility. The vendors want to accommodate popular platforms while taking advantage of NT's features such as symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP) and super-fast CPUs. Vendors can port the same NT application across multiple CPU types simply by recompiling the code. In contrast, UNIX applications require recoding for each UNIX flavor.

NT is bringing together users and developers who, until now, have not competed in the same marketplace. Now you can run a $100,000 3D-CAD and manufacturing application on the same system that a $2000 2D design package runs on. This capability is an opportunity for users to transfer their expertise in one system to another as applications adopt common NT attributes.

This capability also means users will compete where they weren't before, as prices for systems and applications drop. For example, the 3D-package SoftImage dropped from $60,000 to $8000. Because of financial considerations, small design and consulting firms used to be limited to smaller, slower, or less-capable design systems. Such firms will now be able to afford previously monolithic systems. CAD engineers will be able to take their experience with small systems and apply them to the new large ones. A technical knowledge base will be available to these companies, allowing them to compete in the global market.

The new mix of players will also bring new ways of thinking and doing work. Hot startup companies in 3D solid modeling and mechanical engineering, such as 3D/Eye (www.eye.com) with TriSpectives and SolidWorks (www.solidworks.com) with SolidWorks 95, are bringing the Windows GUI into CAD, providing a different way to work with models. This next generation of applications combines CAD with animation and rendering. Although they may be non-traditional, these applications offer advantages such as ease-of-use that old CAD systems don't.

Company Profiles
Most vendors who offer engineering software solutions (Table 1B lists these vendors) apparently see a future for NT and have ported their products, although the market is significantly Intel-centric. Others are wary and are waiting to see what the market does before they move to NT. The latter are in the minority, and even they are not completely ignoring the NT opportunity--they have plans. Note, though, that most vendors who offer NT-native products have not ported all their titles yet: Some of their NT products are just portions of product suites, some are full products but without all the supporting modules, and some are the complete suites.

Mentioning several of these companies specifically is worthwhile. Some have "bet the business" on NT, some have been stable for many years and are now looking for new markets, and some are playing wait and see before porting any or all products.

First, consider Catia/CADAM by Dassault Systemes (marketed by IBM in the US). This product is one of the world's leading CAD/CAM systems. Companies such as Boeing (which used it to design the 777), Chrysler, Honda, and many others use Catia/CADAM as their sole design system. Catia on UNIX offers engineers a complete and comprehensive environment to design, model, and manufacture anything from a grommet to a jet airliner. The package can automate the whole process. It will recommend a manufacturing path for the greatest efficiency (which components to build first), tell the machines exactly how to work, and conduct the procedures. At the beginning of March, Dassault announced that it had ported Catia to NT (and Silicon Graphics) with full support.

Intergraph, a longtime NT supporter, is in the category of companies betting the business on NT. Since 1992, Intergraph's primary focus has been on NT hardware and software solutions such as the SolidEdge 3D-CAD package and the TDZ-400 OpenGL-accelerated graphics workstation. The company has grown rapidly in the NT arena and, with more than a 90% share, now leads the market in architectural engineering and construction (AEC) software. Intergraph still offers UNIX applications, but NT offerings constitute 70% of total revenue. (So, for this particular company, NT is taking a big slice out of the UNIX market).

The electronic design market, which totals an estimated $1.5 billion for 1995, has several entries, but most of the revenue is spread over only four companies. The leader, Cadence Design Systems, offers a wide range of design tools for anything from PCB layout and optimization to IC design. The company's new NT-native Allegro package, which includes these features and interfaces with manufacturing programs, began shipping in January this year. Cadence considers third-party interoperability important and will port more products as the market, or users, convey a need.

Synopsys and HP are in the wait-and-see category: They have not ported any CAD offerings to NT. Although they are considering doing so, they have no concrete or immediate plans. This hesitance is odd for such major players in the electronic and mechanical design markets (Synopsys has a license base of 19,000, and HP has 57,000).

Before NT, scientific visualization and automation and control were well-developed markets in UNIX and DOS. NT offers new power and flexibility that these vendors are bringing to the market. (Table 2 lists these vendors.) Although companies in this area are generally small and privately held, developers such as Visual Numerics (PV-Wave) and Wolfram Research (Mathematica) have ported their products to NT. InTouch and GE Fanuc have followed suit in the automation market.

This information makes the trend clear. Engineering-related applications are moving toward NT, as are support packages such as integration tools (UNIX to PC: Project Boss from CatNet, which lets you integrate Catia information between the platforms).

The Bottom Line
The worldwide software market is, has been, and will probably always be, extremely volatile, but trends are usually solid (for a time, anyway). NT is a force to reckon with in the engineering marketplace. NT will not outright replace UNIX. (DOS is another story, though. Because 16-bit development is all but dead now, vendors that have Windows 3.X or DOS applications will be forced into 32-bit development.) However, NT's scaleability, flexibility, and power will continue to attract users and vendors, providing low-cost and high-performance engineering solutions.

And, these NT solutions won't be stripped-down versions of the UNIX titles, as has been a problem with ports to other OSs. NT ports will be the fully functional, full-featured products you are used to on UNIX platforms, only NT solutions will cost less and run on faster hardware.

Please see Table 1A: Engineering Companies by Total Revenue

See also "Engineering Tools in the NT Environment"