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Dassault, UGS in 3-D PLM Race

The top-two players in product lifecycle management (PLM) are trying to establish their supremacy in 3-D cyberspace.

Dassault Systemes  today unveiled 3DLive, a new application allowing its customers to collaborate online using 3-D design tools. The introduction comes less than a week after UGS announced that it is using the virtual world Second Life to encourage collaboration and to explore ways of driving business through the site.

Traditionally a process for tracking components of manufactured goods from assembly to end-of-life, PLM tools are now being designed to enable collaboration between designers, component manufacturers, OEMs, after-sales and marketing teams.

3DLive plugs into three existing PLM applications from Dassault, and will allow customers to share designs, marketing ideas and information through a Web-based interface.

Dominique Florack, senior executive vice president of product R&D at Dassault, said the application will "expand collaborative product innovation communities."

IBM is spearheading Dassault's efforts in the PLM space. Last year, Big Blue launched a framework meant to put PLM at the strategic heart of its manufacturing customers. Al Bunshaft, vice president of PLM Solutions at IBM, said the collaborative aspects of PLM can give manufacturers a competitive edge, particularly in the face of globalization.

"The ability to conceptualize, develop and deliver products in a shared environment over the Web presents enormous possibilities for customers seeking an advantage in the fast-paced and ultra-competitive markets where they do business," Bunshaft said in a statement.

3DLive will become generally available in late June, but is available immediately to current Dassault customers.

UGS, for its part, has created a presence in Second Life in order to establish itself as a serious competitor in the design space and stimulate demand for its products.

UGS has established its leadership position in PLM through its strength in product data management company, not computer-aided design, where it has played second fiddle to Dassault.

According to Chris Kelly, vice president of partner and platform marketing at UGS, its virtual presence is a way of putting a new stake in the ground. "This is an opportunity to say this is something that is very important to us," he said.

Kelly said that customers have already expressed interest in using the company's Second Life presence to conduct design reviews and customer testing. Virtual testing would save hundreds of thousands of dollars spent building prototypes "when they can test it and track the feedback, essentially for nothing," he told internetnews.com.

He said the company has already discovered that being on Second Life gives it access to a self-identified talent pool.

"These are people who are naturally collaborative, naturally social and naturally 3-D. We can't let all these guys become the animators for Shrek 14," he said.

Kelly also likened UGS' presence in Second Life to its program to donate applications to universities in order to expose future users to its tools. "The more we can support activities that drive people to consume 3-D, the more we can sell of our tools."