Why we keep upgrading

In a comment in response to a Deelip post yesterday, Brad Holtz pointed to an article he wrote in 1999. It’s interesting to note that while much of the computing world today bears little resemblance to the scene at the end of the last century, this article remains almost completely accurate and relevant. Indeed, it’s so right that you might even be tempted to think, “Duh, isn’t that obvious?”

One section that stood out to me had this to say:

Many software systems never even get beyond the acceptable stage …. vendors of these systems are continually coming out with new versions, never stopping long enough to fix the problems with the existing systems.

It’s fascinating to me that this observation came at the very time that Autodesk was switching from a company that wasn’t exactly like that to one that very much was (and still is today), thanks to the 12-month release cycle.

2 comments to Why we keep upgrading

  • Interesting article. On a related note, I had a dream the other night that an old homeless drunk on a street corner was warning me against using Revit because of future compatibility issues. I asked if the other BIM-capable platforms had the same flaw, but woke up before he could answer. .-(

  • Peter Lawton

    Even the Evil Empire, Microsoft, does not force a 12-month release cycle on paying customers, the way Autodesk does. As Deelip states, Microsoft’s Visual Studio is on a 3-year release cycle (as is Windows and Office), which is much less egregious and disruptive for paying customers. Autodesk is lucky that Microsoft does not follow the same 12-month cycle.

    The 12-month cycle was simply Carol Bartz’s way of getting Autodesk to become a ‘billion dollar company’, which was her explicitly stated goal back in the late 90s:

    “(Bartz) has also steered the company to a predictable annual upgrade cycle for its software. (This has) helped eliminate lumpiness in Autodesk’s revenue stream and provide clearer visibility into its financial results …”

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/autodesk-ceo-carol-bartz-stays-the-course

    Be assured, the 12-month cycle is NOT for paying end users like us, it is strictly for shareholders – period. My overarching view is that Autodesk’s primary product is NOT software – it is profit. Profit is not a bad thing, but Autodesk’s business model is bad for the majority of users (cows), while the cash (milk) flows regularly to the shareholders thru the subscription program.
    Understanding that profit is Autodesk’s primary motivation reveals that, while they could likely make the program run perfectly, (and make all the users happy), by reducing the release cycle from annual to every 4 or 6 years, and perfecting the software before release, the result would be that the flow of cash would slow. This reduction in the revenue stream would upset shareholders, who would remove the board of directors and upper management, and replace them with some other sharks who would come up with another scheme.
    As long as Autodesk is a for-profit publicly-held company, the needs of the users will always be secondary. The solution is for users to buy stock, then ultimately turn Autodesk into a non-profit. Then the payoff for the shareholders (the users) will be much easier workdays and much lower IT costs.

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