The program formed from these partnerships focuses on two areas of product-life-cycle management in manufacturing: product design and collaboration, and portfolio and program management. Partners include Hewlett-Packard, Immedient, Pcubed, Sopheon, and UGS. The partners will offer automotive, chemical, consumer packaged-goods, high-technology, and oil and gas manufacturers PLM products and services based on Microsoft technology such as Windows Server 2003, BizTalk Server 2004, SQL Server 2000, Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003, Microsoft Office Project Server 2003, Live Meeting, Office 2003, and Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003.
The program is a response to customer demand for an easier way to access information and to leverage existing technology, says Don Richardson, director of the manufacturing industry unit at Microsoft. The challenge customers have, he says, is that many applications that relate to PLM initiatives often aren't tied together in any way. For example, they're using a CAD/CAM system for design development and capturing specifications for the design in Word, but those apps aren't linked. "We are suggesting that PLM is a component of a well-defined product-development strategy," Richardson says. "We are not in the PLM business; this is really the business of our partners who have built very strong products but don't have the end-to-end approach to the problem."
Sopheon, for example, will work with Microsoft to develop and deliver products that integrate Microsoft's collaborative technologies into Sopheon's Accolade product-development system, which automates phase-based product-development processes and provides strategic decision support. Sopheon also will integrate Microsoft Office Project Server 2003 and Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2003 into Accolade.
Sopheon CEO Andy Michuda says his company is interested in running its PLM on the Microsoft platform because the company is responding to the industry's demand for tools that provide better collaboration and communication among manufacturers who want to deliver products to market faster.