In a short break between meetings today I saw from my PLM related twitter stream that Dassault has reached an agreement to buy social media analytics firm NetVibes. As much as I hate to say it….well done Dassault. Of all the crazy little acquisitions that you've done over the last few years, this one is spot on. Although the press release was filled with some pretty confusing messaging (the post on the netvibes blog is a little clearer) I think their is both a long term and a short term payback for Dassault in this acquisition.
In the short term, the Dassault team will be able to get a better handle internally on their brand in all the social circles going on out there. What they choose to do with this newfound information is another question, but as my childhood hero used to say "knowing is half the battle". Additionally, they will be able to use the good buzz they find out there to better promote what they are doing to the emerging "social class" of product engineering and manufacturing users. Their solidworks group, never one to be late to anything, is already promoting a Netvibes dashboard for their user event that lets potential attendees as well as those who have to view the event from afar see all that's being reported through various social channels.
In the longer term, the Netvibes acquisition will give Dassault a key piece of the social production vision: connecting user feedback / ideas from social channels with product development. This is potentially the first step to commercializing what many have been talking about for a while – the adoptions of open source software principles for physical product development. As Dave Winer put it on a long ago podcast "users and developers partying together". Or it could turn out to be another one of the crazy little acquisitions. The competitor in me hopes its the latter. The engineer in me hope that we'll all get to take part in having some small part in imagining the products we use.