As CATIA is a major software package used in my industry I went and checked out CATIA V6R2009. CATIA V6 tries to harness Web 2.0 and Web 3D to improve collaboration and innovation. They also play up the “lifelike experience” angle, though I personally despise that phrase when applied to CAD design and developing since it is used far to often.
The reality is many designers and engineers want and need to interact physically and directly with others when collaborating on ideas. While the rapid exchange of data and files is an excellent idea, being able to access others remotely is a good idea in theory but is still somewhat limited in practice. Perhaps this will change sooner or later, but designers and engineers tend to be conservative by the nature of their careers and slow to accept the idea of removing human interaction in the design process, especially given those fields continually looking for individuals that are articulate and capable of working in groups effectively.
CATIA V6 sounds like a lot of great ideas that have a number of issues to overcome: namely a variety of intellectual property rights regarding file types. There is an on going legal dispute between Autodesk and Dassault Systemes’ SolidWorks over a number of issues including the use of DWG in product names.