Autodesk perpetual license owners to get screwed big-time

Hidden in amongst a bunch of the usual highly dubious subscription statements from Carl Bass is an announcement that spells doom for Autodesk perpetual license owners. I will resist the temptation to skewer Carl’s spin (for now) because this announcement is much more important:

Bass also confirmed that the company plans to converge the two existing subscription models — maintenance and product subscriptions — into a single offering over the next two years. “If you look out to fiscal year 2020, we want to be in a place where, first of all, we have a single kind of offering with a single back office and infrastructure to support it, one that will be a combination of product subscriptions as you see them plus a consumption model on top of it. That’s where we see the business heading.

“Along the way, it’s how do we motivate customers to move from one model to another in the program, what are the price points, and how does that transition work? In our mind, getting to a single model is really important. It will give the best service to our customers, it will be the most affordable for us to have, [and] we can start getting rid of some of the systems that were designed for a different era and concentrate on giving a world-class experience to users.”

Translation: Autodesk is going to drive up prices of maintenance subscription (perpetual license keeping-up-to-date fee) to match the much higher prices of product subscription (rental). Maintenance subscription will then be merged into oblivion. Your return on your long-term investment in Autodesk software will be zero. Your reward for decades of loyalty to Autodesk will be to have your software costs blown through the roof.

If you’re not already making plans to abandon the Autodesk ship, you really need to do so now. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Don’t say Carl  didn’t warn you.

Get out or get screwed big-time. I mean, get out or get motivated to transition into a world-class experience.


  1. You’d have to be living under a rock to not see this coming. It’s always been a matter of when, not if.

    I still say this will have an almost zero effect on the customer base as a whole. A few small shops may jump ship, but the rest of the customers are on board this cruise for the duration.

    • Oh yes, I certainly saw it coming. From Battle of the Bullshit part 2 – Autodesk’s sophistry

      Based on what Autodesk has done in recent years, it is a pretty safe bet that the cost of maintenance (formerly called Subscription) is going to rise, and rise sharply. Give it a few years and I expect maintenance customers will be paying the same as rental customers. I expect other strong-arm methods will be used to “encourage” people onto rental. When this happens, our perpetual licenses will be near worthless…

    • Really? I’m sticking with 2016 for perpetuity. Most functionality is achieved through 3rd party plugins and Autodesk hasn’t innovated enough to get perpetual-licence-holders to jump ship to the rental-model. 3ds max 2018 onwards will have to be absolutely amazing for Carl Bass’s plan to work or people will just stop the maintenance-payments and make do with the version they have. Once you stop the maintenance payments, you are stuck with the version you have with no option to upgrade. This means that the rental-only scheme loses existing perpetual-licence customers, perhaps forever.

      • Josef Wienerroither

        Definitely true for the current renting rates. 3ds Max is – what ? 200€/ month ? Insane, AD heads are totally out of their minds if the really believe that the majority of maintenance customers would rent into that

  2. There are those users who need/want latest release, and so are on-board. There are others who buy one copy, use it for what they want, and never need to update. The problem for Autodesk is that the proportion of these users is roughly 50/50.

    • The question is if that 50-50 is an actual problem or a change in strategy? A one time purchase is just that, one time, vs a more continual revenue stream with additional “pay for use / per project” type users. The gamble is that the sum of these paying clients offsets the loss in the one off / 2D AutoCAD markets.

    • As the rate of improvement in AutoCAD has slowed to a trickle over the last few years (and several things have got worse), I’d say that 50/50 is being very generous in terms of those who need/want the latest release. These days people keep up to date because that’s what they have always done, not because it makes sense. Autodesk is now forcing customers to actually think about whether they need to keep up to date. I expect Autodesk to be very uncomfortable with what the majority of customers decide.

  3. The cusotmer base is changing rapidly, look at the sales numbers:
    – a lot of loyal (maintenance) customers are decreasing/abandoning their contracts
    – a lot of new (no incentive to be loyal) subscription customers
    – a significant relative decrease in revenue in EMEA/APAC over several quarters
    – a significant relative increase in revenue in Americas over several quarters
    – an increase in direct to customer sales, by ADSK webshop and sales staff (ADSK resellers inclined to look elsewhere for business and take their customers with them)
    – a significant decrease in AutoCAD/LT sales

    Compare this with increasing sales numbers & increased offerings from DS, Nemetschek, Bricsys & Zwsoft and you get the whole picture.

    If these trends continue, by FY 2020, the average ADSK customer will be a different type of company in a different part of the world.

  4. The interesting thing is $1000 a year for civil3d maint sub is pretty easy to justify. When you jump to $2500 for rental, it does start to become something you think about. The first stage of minimizing adesk products has already begun with several civil companies I know. They stop giving everyone civil3d, and limit it to only those that actually use it. The rest get AutoCad. The next step is to get the acad users to bricscad, and the Civil3d users to civil software for bricscad. The guys from Australia that write what used to be ADR, have adapted it to bricscad and US design patterns. That is a real alternative to Civil3D, even if you use autocad. The fact is, any software vendor makes Autodesk service look horrible. That is sad, as the technical people at Autodesk are great. The organization just got too big and now its all about pleasing internal review instead of true customer review.

    • The software James is referring to is Civil Site Design, a major upgrade to the original Advanced Road Design software. It runs with Civil 3D automated curb returns and improved stability. It will also run with AutoCAD and BricsCAD where it adds its own surface engines and alignments..

  5. Carl Bass is a c…

    [Edit – sorry Chris, but I’m going to have to slice through your comment for your and my legal protection. Feel free to put forward your views strongly, but without the libel – Steve]

  6. Just had an odd thought. What are the tax ramifications of this wonderful rental scam? I can depreciate the initial cost of a perpetual license over five years. If I was able to later sell that zero value license, that would become income/capital gains. What’s the skinny on rental expenditures? Can’t buy it, there’s no tangible value, can’t sell it. Is this fixed expense now a small tool that’s 100% depreciable every year? To me that means that rental is a zero cost misadventure from day zero. Anybody know the (USA) rules? I could buy lunch for the accountant, but it’s one in the morning and he has a personality problem. Thanks. Curious in California…

    • Of course, you can’t sell that zero value license.

      I’m in the wrong country and no accountant, but here software rental can be deducted in full immediately, just like maintenance on that perpetual license you bought (and deducted the initial purchase price of) years ago.

      Full deduction is a long way from zero-cost, of course, it just means the rental cost comes off your taxable income. Unless you’re being taxed at 100%, that means you’re still out of pocket. The extra cost of rental means you’re a lot further out of pocket.

      Let’s say annual maintenance on your software is $765 and your company is taxed at 30%. You lose $765 and get $229.50 back eventually in reduced tax, so the net cost is $535.50, ignoring a bunch of things (cost of money, retail taxes).

      Let’s say annual rental on your software is $2360 and your company is taxed at 30%. You lose $2360 and get $708 back eventually, so the net cost is $1652, ignoring the same things.

      Extra net cost of rental = 1652 – 535.50 = $1116.50

      It’s just over 3 times as expensive to rent.

      Usual disclaimers apply. YMMV. I’m not an accountant. Don’t take my advice.

  7. See what happens when you rely on the Cloud for math instead of fingers. With LA’s 9.5% sales tax and my average 28% businesx taxes I’d still save nearly 23% off retail. Even at 48¢ per billable hour, rental would eventually cost twice as much.

    ‘Course, potentially I’ll have turned 92 by then and none of these current tragic events will put me off my nap.

  8. Just got prices in for my Autocad Advance Steel maintenence plan at £1400 per year. Annual subscription for same software is £2000 per year. Looks like both plans will be aligned in price very soon.

    Considering I invested £7.5k in my licence 2 years ago not best pleased.

    Screw autodesk. I will be using my licence on its current version for as long as possible. Once obsolete, there are plenty other options. They will not be getting one more penny from me.

    • I mentioned the above posts/blog which I came across by accident to the account manager of my Autodesk reseller, she’s pretty much comfirmed that’s they way things are heading. Like others on here, I’m not best pleased either as I’m a one man band & I’m still paying for a BDSU perpetual license & 3 year maintenance package from Oct 2015 to become BIM compliant. In addition I also own an LT perpetual license in current subs which I’ve owned since 2009. She also stated there is some announcement from Autodesk that she was embargoed from releasing until after 2nd March………

      Like others have suggested on here, the differences between the annual Autodesk releases are not worth the money we are charged for them, with very few additional useful features being add. Like others have suggested on here, I will also look to utilize my perpetual license for as long as physically possible without giving Autodesk another penny, once it gets to the point where it causes frequent problems, I will mostly likely look at alternative options over taking an Autodesk subscription.

      • And here’s the confirmation email from Autodesk:

        Important Update


        We want to take a moment to share the direction Autodesk is heading—some upcoming changes that will affect your maintenance plan—and a special offer to move to subscription that you may want to consider.

        We believe that subscribing is the best way for you to get the greatest value from our tools and technologies—and will fundamentally change how we deliver extended capabilities and new functionalities through connected services. That’s why we’re on a path toward becoming a subscription-only company. We will continue to invest heavily in our subscription offerings, to provide you with greater value through the following benefits:
        • Latest and greatest product capabilities – Get access to Autodesk’s ongoing stream of innovation, updates to core products, cloud services for desktop products, and additional capabilities as soon as they are available, at no additional cost.
        • Access to new industry collections – Available only through subscription, you’ll realize significant savings when you need two or more Autodesk software products.
        • New and improved support – Enjoy faster response times and the option to receive help by scheduling a call with Autodesk technical support specialists.
        • Simplified administration – Access tools that streamline deployment and software management when you standardize all of your Autodesk products on subscription.

        With our move to subscription, one thing has become clear to us—managing two business models (subscriptions and maintenance plans) is quite costly. To continue supporting maintenance, beginning May 7, 2017, renewal prices will increase by 5% in 2017, 10% in 2018, and 20% in 2019. Also, you should be aware that maintenance plans can now only be renewed for one year at a time.
        Now that we’ve shared the direction we’re heading, we’d like to talk to you about a special offer to help you join us on the path toward subscription—one that recognizes your loyalty and the value of your previous investments. Beginning June 2017, you’ll be able to move your products on a maintenance plan to a subscription for up to 60% less than the cost of a new subscription. This discount will decrease by 5% in 2018 and another 5% in 2019, so the earlier you switch to a subscription, the less it will cost—and the more you’ll save compared to those who wait to move, or choose to stay on maintenance. When you make the switch, you’ll also be able to lock in your discounted price for up to three years and continue to receive discounted pricing for as long as you renew.
        We know you’ll probably have questions. These are big changes that we’re prepared to walk you through. Please see the FAQ for additional details and contact your Autodesk Sales Representative or Autodesk Reseller to discuss the options that best suit your technical and business needs.
        Whether you choose to switch to a subscription or renew your maintenance plan, our promise is to continue to provide you best-in-class software, services, and support.

        Teresa Anania
        Sr. Director, Subscriber Success

  9. ‘only’ a 5% increase this year?

    Do you think her nose was growing as she typed?

  10. This must the funniest section from the above Austodesk FAQ weblink,

    2.1 How will maintenance plan customers benefit from switching to subscription?

    It looks like even Autodesk are struggling to think of any benefits for customers to switch from a Perpetual License on Maintenance to a Subcription – do they really think that owners of Perpetual Licenses are going to trade them in for subscriptions and allow Autodesk to have us by the balls???

    At least those of us with Perpetual Licenses don’t have to continuing paying for Maintenance renewals or switch to Subscription even when Maintenance Plans are eventually phased out. We’ll be able to enjoy a few years of fee free software until such time that our software becomes obsolete……

  11. Everyone is rightly upset with this turn of events. I suggest that you also take your concerns to the official Autodesk forums for the various products you use. (Not just the subscription forum.)

    One aspect that I have seen no discussion of is one’s long term access to his (or his company’s) ***intellectual property.***

    The cost of high end software is significant, but the cost of producing “content” is much, much greater. If you are a free-lancer you might not care as much, but if, for instance, you are a manufacturer with CAD/CAM models that you need access to for, perhaps, decades, you had better be thinking about even being able to get to your own designs in the event Autodesk decides to discontinue a product.

    DON’T trade in your perpetual licenses and tell anyone thinking about beginning to use Autodesk products that they should think long and hard about their need to ensure long-term access to their creations.

  12. I agree with Ron. Business owners need to take note that the rental of software gives no guarantee that you will have access to your old data. What if you miss a payment? No access to data.

    Our experience with the Adobe rental model is that we no longer have access to 12 year old PDF’s because the new PDF software no longer recognises them. Having and holding on to a perpetual licence means at lease we can guarantee access to our IP.

  13. Let me see, the cost of a maintenance subscription is currently $545. It increases %5 in 2017 to $572.25. 10% in 2018 to $629.48. finally 20% in 2019 to $755.38. Excuse me, but am I missing something here, is this not still much cheaper than a subscription based fee?

  14. I had a long phone conversation with Teresa Anania from Autodesk yesterday. She called me about comments I left on her Autodesk blog post. I’m a Revit user and she could not understand why I was so concerned about losing access to my files if I moved to subscription for a few years and then stopped. “You would still have your old licence to access your files – we don’t want you original licence back.” Well, that’s a change in the story but I said that is still no good as Revit cannot backwards save to an older version. As soon as I upgrade my Revit files to a version newer than my permanent licence, I have lost access. Surprisingly, Teresa was not aware of this and understood my concerns. She now wonders how many other Autodesk offerings are not backwards compatible. What about the software you use?

    • Perhaps Teresa should read her own FAQ. You clearly have to trade in your own license, although that little detail is missing from her letter. And she doesn’t understand version compatibility issues? Really? Is the person trying to sell these changes really that poorly informed? Honestly?

  15. My company has a single user license for Product Design Suite Ultimate on maintenance subscription. The thing that differentiated the “Ultimate Suite” from the “Premium Suite” when we bought it was that Alias Design was included. Today I learned (from AD support) that Alias Design 2018 is not included in PSDU 2018. (!)

    It’s probably some fine print somewhere in the contract saying Autodesk can do whatever they want etc etc, but it is a huge breach of trust. It was the only extra thing in the Ultimate suite we paid extra for. By keeping maintenance we have basically been downgraded to the lower tier “Premium Suite” (or was it standard suite, I don’t remember).

    I guess raising the prices on maintenance isn’t the only thing they can do. If you have a Suite they can also remove essential software from the suite going forward, so in the future your suites are going to be worthless! I am so frustrated for being an Autodesk customer right now!!

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