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EDS revamps design software

The computer services giant says the latest version of its I-deas software will improve computer-aided product development.

Computer services giant Electronic Data Systems on Tuesday released an upgrade to its product development software.

The software, called I-deas 10 NX Series, contains new features and brings the company closer to its goal of unifying its two products for computer-aided design, manufacturing and engineering analysis.

The update improves the interoperability between I-deas and EDS' other product-design software, Unigraphics NX. "We have significantly simplified the sharing of data between these two systems," Chuck Grindstaff, EDS president of product lifecycle management (PLM) products, said in a statement.

PLM software helps companies handle tasks ranging from product conception to manufacturing and delivery. EDS launched its PLM division in October 2001 after acquiring product design software company Structural Dynamics Research and buying the remaining shares of its majority-owned subsidiary, Unigraphics Solutions. EDS intends to combine the I-deas and Unigraphics products by the end of 2004, said company spokesman Jim Phelan.

Apart from enhanced data-sharing with Unigraphics, other new features of I-deas NX Series include an improved ability to work with component parts. For example, engineers can more easily shape the styling of a car trunk, changing the interior structure automatically.

The upgraded software also speeds up the "meshing" of parts, or the computer rendering of objects that allows for virtual tests on structural integrity, heat resistance and so on. Additionally, the new I-deas application offers broader support for automotive crash test simulation products from other companies.

The I-deas product is for a field that appears to hold more promise than many amid sluggish spending on information technology overall. EDS says the PLM market--defined as collaborative product data management, mechanical design automation and digital manufacturing products along with related services--is roughly $18 billion, and is growing at a compound annual rate of 7 percent to 9 percent.

Research firm IDC has predicted that "discrete" manufacturing companies--those that make goods by assembling individual parts--will spend $121.9 billion on information technology this year, more than any other industry.

Other companies competing against EDS for product lifecycle management IT contracts include Dassault Systemes of France and Needham, Mass.-based PTC.

In October, Plano, Texas-based EDS said research firm Daratech identified EDS PLM Solutions as the market share leader of the global PLM software and services market based on 2001 market statistics.

EDS is better known for services, such as systems integration and IT outsourcing, than for software. But PLM software fits into the company's strategy, Phelan said. Annual revenue for EDS' PLM division is about $1 billion, he said. Overall, the company took in $21.5 billion in revenue last year.