CEOs Plot to Perk Up PLM with .Net

Q&A: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and UGS CEO Tony Affuso sit down to talk .Net and product lifecycle management platforms that take on search and collaboration duties.

AUSTIN, Texas—Product lifecycle management software has long been thought of as a tool for "tech weenies." But Microsoft and UGS are setting out to change that perception. The companies, which on May 3 set in motion the development of the first PLM platform built entirely on .Net, aim to bring PLM to the widest possible user set—from the extended supply chain to marketing and manufacturing to retail—as both a digital collaboration tool and a search tool. Theyre in a good position to accomplish their goal as many Microsoft products—think Outlook—are ever-present collaboration tools. UGS, which has nearly 4 million licensed seats and 46,000 customers, announced it will tighten integration between, among others, its TeamCenter and Microsofts ASP.Net 2.0, Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft SQL Server 2005, which are all based on .Net. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and UGS CEO Tony Affuso sat down with eWEEK Senior Writer Renee Boucher Ferguson at the World Congress on IT on May 3 to talk about their plans.

Whats the big deal with PLM for Microsoft, given its status as a niche application?

Affuso: You know it used to be. Its not anymore. PLM is the lifeblood of a product manufacturing company. It helps organize and share ideas and products across an organization. It used to be just the tech weenies would use it to track design engineering. But now its all about collaboration and involving different teams [and] bringing in costing people, testing people, reliability people.

Tony, you and I spoke in 2002-2003 about digital collaboration. You said then the technology had about a 10 percent market penetration. Has that grown in the last three or four years, and how will Microsoft help going forward?

Ballmer: Whether it happened at speed X, speed W—its inevitable it will happen at speed Z, which is fast. Why is that? People say, "Oh, I cant relate to PLM. Im not involved in the design of an automobile." Lets talk about producing magazines and newspapers. That is essentially an innovation process about creating a set of intellectual property that needs to be managed. There needs to be some workflow applied to it. There needs to be collaboration associated with it, and of course its very interesting to the reporters, to the editors, and its also frankly quite interesting to a lot of other people in the organization.

So the whole notion of providing tools to an information worker to help them participate in the creation, review, commentary, collaboration, workflow around intellectual property, ideas, innovation. Thats kind of our lifeblood.

Is the integration with Microsoft more from a portal perspective, or are you talking deep-dive integrations on the backend?

Ballmer: You want to have enough intelligence on the client—and Office integration in general is a very important thing—which we have some things together in the marketplace today and we have opportunities for expansion of that collaboration.

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