Why Autodesk’s Cloud push will fail, part 1 – failure defined

It’s probably unwise to make predictions about what is going to happen in technology. If so, I’m about to be unwise. So be it; if I’m wrong you can taunt me about this post in a few years. Here’s my prediction:

Autodesk’s attempt to move CAD users onto the Cloud is doomed to failure.

This is the first of a series of posts that will examine what I mean by that and the reasons behind it. The first thing that’s important to lay out is what I mean by failure. What I mean is that reality will not match Autodesk’s expectation of what will happen with its products moving to the Cloud. What expectation is that?

I’d say two to three years from now, every one of our products will be used online. The only way to use them will be online.

Carl Bass, April 2012, Full post

Autodesk Cloud interview May 2010 – Part 3

Steve: Another issue I have with Cloud-based environments is the lack of customisation. One of the things that makes AutoCAD so efficient for people is that they can get it exactly the way they want it. With a browser-based environment, we’re pretty much stuck with what you guys decide to give us. Can you see any solution to that in the longer term?

Tal: From a pure technical point of view, there’s not a lot of difference in terms of the way you can customise an application on the desktop versus customising it on the web. I think AutoCAD, having a very mature application has a lot of functionality which has built up over the years to provide customisation capabilities to the nth degree. So I think it has less to do with the platform of your choice and more to do with the maturity of the solution and how … Full post

Autodesk Cloud interview May 2010 – Part 2

Steve: Autodesk is currently giving away these Cloud-based services, Butterfly for example. Presumably you’re not going to keep doing that for ever. Are you going to start charging for these services eventually?

Guri: Again, you’re pushing us to talk about future. Currently, for as long as this is in a Labs environment, we’re encouraging users to use it and we’re giving it free in the Labs environment and we’re not putting any limits on it during the Labs experiment. Once we make it a commercial product we may change that.

Steve: I put a poll on my blog asking readers what they thought about CAD on the Cloud, and most of them are either concerned or frightened. Solidworks users are in revolt about what they see as being forced onto the Cloud. Why do you think there is this fear or apprehension of CAD on the Cloud?

Guri: I’m not … Full post

Autodesk Cloud interview May 2010 – Part 1

On 26 May 2010, I had the opportunity to ask Autodesk some questions about the Cloud in general and what was then Project Butterfly (now AutoCAD WS) in particular. The Autodesk people were:

  • Guri Stark,Vice President, AutoCAD & Platform Products
  • Tal Weiss, R&D Center Manager (Israel)
  • Noah Cole, Corporate Media Relations

The interview was conducted by phone conference with no prior notice of the questions. Here is the first part of the interview, which I will be posting in three sections.

Steve: Guri, are you responsible for all of Autodesk’s Cloud-based offerings?

Guri: Tal and I are responsible for Butterfly, that’s the only Cloud-based offering that we are responsible for.

Noah: Steve, you can put the cloud-based offerings into three categories, those that are related to current products and therefore come out of the same organisations and divisions that those products come out of. So Butterfly which is related … Full post

Executive summary of Deelip’s AutoCAD for Mac interview

Deelip has just published an extensive interview with several Autodesk people about AutoCAD for the Mac. Deelip had a good set of questions and I suggest you read the whole thing, but if it’s all too tl;dr for you, then here is the lazy reader’s version of what Autodesk had to say:

  • The AutoCAD code was split up into 3 sections: the core CAD engine (platform-independent), the Windows-specific (MFC) parts and the Mac-specific (Cocoa) ones.
  • AutoCAD for Mac is incomplete. Choosing which features to leave out was done with the aid of CIP (oh, dear) and Beta feedback. (Hang on a minute, I thought CIP said most people were using the Ribbon…)
  • No comment on when or if AutoCAD for Mac functionality will catch up with its Windows counterpart.
  • No comment on the stability or performance of the Mac version.
  • Buying Visual Tau wasn’t a … Full post

Not answering the question

Here in Australia, we’re in election mode, so I have even more reasons to avoid watching TV. On those occasions when I do watch it, I am often annoyed by what I see. This is not a novel observation, but one of the things that annoys me about many politicians is their habit of sidestepping questions when interviewed. It also annoys me when interviewers fail to follow up these non-answers and let them slide. Depending on the circumstances (e.g. limited timeframe, more important questions to ask, etc.), there may be valid reasons for journalists failing to chase after legitimate answers in a live interview situation. But I would much prefer to see a non-answering interviewee tied down and not allowed to wriggle free. Squirm, baby, squirm!

For on-line journalists and bloggers, there are few excuses for letting non-answers go unchallenged. There is virtually unlimited time, opportunity and column space in … Full post

Autodesk’s Callan Carpenter responds to Subscription follow-up

You may remember a month ago I raised the question What proportion of Autodesk customers really are on Subscription? Shortly after that, I sent Autodesk Subscription VP Callan Carpenter these questions following up on the interview:

I have a request for follow-up information arising from this interview. I hope you can find the time to provide some answers.

Preamble: Several people have called into doubt your assertion that the simplified upgrade policy affects only a tiny minority of your customers (you seemed to imply a figure of around 3% non-Subscription customers, with 1.5% who upgrade within a year or two). My own calculations based on Autodesk’s latest published financial results indicate that of upgrades represent 21% of the combined income from Subscription and upgrades, which is 7 times greater than the impression you gave in your answer. Please see this post for more discussion.


What proportion of Autodesk customers really are on Subscription?

In my recent interview of Autodesk Subscription VP Callan Carpenter, he made these statements:

…there is a very small fraction of our revenue that comes from upgrades at this point in time.

We’re down to very low single digits of customers who upgrade, and of those only half of those upgrade 1 or 2 years back. So we’re talking about approximately 1.5% of our revenue that comes from customers upgrading 1 and 2 versions back.

…[customers who upgrade] 1 or 2 [releases] back, a very small percentage of our customer base, less than 2% of our customer base that was buying those upgrades.

Others are calling those numbers into doubt. Deelip Menezes (SYCODE, Print 3D) estimated the numbers of AutoCAD users not on Subscription at 66% (or 43%, depending on which bit of the post you read), by counting the AutoCAD releases used by his customers … Full post

Callan Carpenter interview 5 – the 12 month cycle

This 5th post concludes the Callan Carpenter interview series. For the record, this interview was done in real time over the phone, with no prior notice of the questions.

SJ: The 12-month cycle that you have for most of your software has come under some criticism from all sorts of people, especially me. Once you have your customer base practically all on Subscription, what’s the incentive for the 12-month cycle to persist?

CC: In what way have you criticised the 12 month cycle?

SJ: In that it damages the product. In that there’s not enough time to release a properly developed product within that 12-month cycle. This is an observation that many people have made going back many years. That’s the basis of the criticism; not that, “Oh no, you’re giving me more software”. Well, there are people who complain about that but I don’t think that’s a valid criticism. … Full post

Callan Carpenter interview 4 – enhancing the program

Part 4 of 5 in this series.

SJ: There is always the fear that once you have all of your customer base on Subscription, you’re not going to need to offer those benefits any more. Can you assure people that that’s not going to be the case, that you are going to keep being “nice” to your customers?

CC: Absolutely. I think my team and I spend as much time and brain energy trying to figure out how to enhance the program as anything else. Our goal is to make Subscription a compelling value proposition; to make it not only cost-effective but valuable in other ways. An example would be the Advantage Pack program. We had a history of Subscription including extensions and other little technology bonuses for subscribers. But last year, we said we’re going to do something different with that. One of the problems with our historical technical … Full post

Callan Carpenter interview 3 – the cost of complexity

Part 3 of 5 in this series.

SJ: In one of my blog posts, I was pretty cynical about one of the phrases used in the press release: “the streamlining of upgrade pricing based on feedback from customers and resellers”. Was I wrong to be cynical about that? Did your customers really ask for upgrade prices to be increased to some nice round number?

CC: What our customers have asked for is simplified purchasing. We have a very complex price book and it leads to thousands of prices items, maybe tens of thousands when you have all the permutations across all the different geographies in which we sell software. A lot of that complexity came from having multiple-step upgrades, multiple-step crossgrades. There is a cost to maintaining that kind of a system. So our resellers certainly were asking for simplification and streamlining explicitly. Our customers were asking to find ways … Full post

Callan Carpenter interview 2 – upgrades a tiny minority

Part 2 of 5 in this series.

SJ: Is there anything specific you want to say about what I have written in my blog?

CC: There are a number of things we can do to put Subscription questions and Simplified Upgrade Pricing into context. I think the first thing we need to recognise is that there is a very small fraction of our revenue that comes from upgrades at this point in time. For the last 8 years or so, our customers have fairly well self-selected to either prefer to be on Subscription and have the latest version and technology available to them, or to not do that, in which case they tend to upgrade 3 years or more after the current release. We’re down to very low single digits of customers who upgrade, and of those only half of those upgrade 1 or 2 years back. So we’re talking … Full post

Callan Carpenter interview 1 – Autodesk and social media

A couple of weeks ago, Angela Simoes from the Autodesk Corporate PR team invited me to interview Callan Carpenter, Autodesk’s Vice President of Global Subscription and Support. Callan is responsible for the sales, marketing operations and product support associated with Subscription. He is also Vice President in charge of Jim Quanci’s Autodesk Developer Network. This morning, we had a very extensive discussion about Subscription and other topics that I intend to publish in several parts over the next few days. Deelip has already published a Callan interview, but mine is quite different.

In this post, I will let Callan introduce himself and then move into some questions about social media that I asked at the end of the interview. In this post, both Callan Carpenter (CC) and Angela Simoes (AS) responded to my questions.

SJ: Callan, can you give me some background on yourself?

CC: I’ve been at … Full post

CAD International interview on drcauto and other subjects

This morning I spoke with CAD International‘s Nigel Varley. Here is a paraphrased summary of the interview.

SJ: When did CAD International buy the drcauto intellectual property rights?
NV: About two weeks ago.

SJ: You are currently helping drcauto customers with authorisation codes, is that correct?
NV: Yes, masses of them. It’s taking up a lot of our peoples’ time.

SJ: Are you charging for this service?
NV: Not at present.

SJ: Do you intend to charge for this service in the future?
NV: Maybe. We may need to, both to pay for our time and to recoup our investment. I don’t particularly like the idea of annual renewals for software, so we may do something different in future.

SJ: If somebody wanted to buy drcauto products such as LT Toolkit now, could they do so?
NV: No, we’re still processing the materials we … Full post

Some thoughts on AutoCAD Exchange

I’ve added a link to Autodesk’s new AutoCAD community site, AutoCAD Exchange. As with most things Autodesk, there are pros and cons. Here are my first impressions.

I think it looks good in a Vista-black kind of way. I know some of you don’t like the black look in software, but I do. The layout looks a bit cluttered and confused at first, but I’m sure visitors will quickly get used to where to find things. The site appears to be designed around 1024-wide resolution. If you have more than this, as most CAD users do, then there are wide areas of wasted space either side of the good stuff.

The front page is basically a teaser. To get to the useful content or do pretty much anything, you need to register or sign in. I don’t particularly like this, and it gives the impression (false or not) that … Full post

A gaggle of geeks

Time to lighten things up a bit, I think. While attending the AutoCAD 2010 product launch in San Francisco on 5 February 2009, I conducted a series of micro-interviews with a collection of AutoCAD bloggers and Autodesk employees. One geek asks 14 other geeks if they are geeks; nothing too serious here. I hope Shaan enjoys my tabloid journalist editing job right at the end.

YouTube link.

Thanks to all the interviewees:

Heidi Hewett, Autodesk blogger
Lynn Allen, Autodesk blogger
Melanie Perry, blogger
Robin Capper, blogger
Brian Benton, blogger
Todd Shackelford, blogger
Jon Page, Autodesk person
Matt Stein, Autodesk person and personal blogger
Shaan Hurley, Autodesk blogger
Donnie Gladfelter, blogger
Ellen Finklestein, blogger
David Cohn, blogger
Mark Douglas, blogger
Guillermo Melantoni, Autodesk … Full post

Autodesk answers – 2 of 4

In a comment on the first of these posts, Ralph G raised the possibility that these answers have been edited by marketing people. I have checked with Eric Stover and he assures me these answers come direct from the program managers concerned and are unmassaged by marketers. That ties in with the partial email trail that came with the answers. It also ties in with the impression I have formed recently that Autodesk is starting to open up a bit. That’s a trend I’m happy to encourage.

There’s one thing that clinches the marketing-interference matter for me. Despite Eric being on vacation when I sent in the request, the answers came back in days rather than weeks or months.

Enough of that, here’s the next question, courtesy of Matt Stachoni:

Q: Why haven’t the latest Subscription Bonus Packs been released for AutoCAD Architecture Subscription customers?

A: This year … Full post

Autodesk answers – 1 of 4

At the end of January, I asked for your questions to put to Autodesk product managers. My intention was to pose your questions in a video interview format while attending the AutoCAD 2010 product launch, but for logistical reasons I was unable to make this happen.

Autodesk’s Eric Stover kindly arranged for your questions to be answered anyway. The delay in getting these answers back to you is my responsibility, not Autodesk’s. The answers come courtesy of the following product managers:

  • Diane Li – lead manager on AutoCAD;
  • Guillermo Melantoni – 3D and Parametrics expert;
  • Kathy O’Connell – customer requests, quality improvements, and 2D improvements.

I will post each question and answer a day apart, to give you chance to comment on each issue separately. Here is the first question, courtesy of Chris Cowgill:

Q: With the current release cycle being so short, has anyone considered suspending … Full post

Autodesk not listening? The response, part 1.

While attending the AutoCAD 2010 launch today, I took the opportunity to interview three Autodesk people: Eric Stover, Jon Page and Shaan Hurley. I raised the issue of Autodesk being seen as not listening to its customers, and was given a very comprehensive response. Here is the first of two parts of that interview.

YouTube link.

Disclosure: Transport, accommodation and some meals were provided by Autodesk.