Further Autodesk subscription inflexibility

Autodesk’s claim that its all-rental business model adds flexibility for customers has always been bullshit.

That’s a self-evident truth. Nobody believes that removing customers’ purchasing options amounts to anything but inflexibility. Particularly when the purchasing option removed is that preferred by the vast majority of customers.

But wait! There’s more! I recently discovered that it’s even more inflexible than I originally thought!

If you sign up for single-user (standalone) subscription licenses you’re stuck with them for the duration of your agreement. You can’t upgrade them to multi-user (network) licenses. Doesn’t matter how much cash you wave in Autodesk’s face, or how much you point out that single-user subscription licensing is a crock, it will be a case of “computer says no”.


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Bentley marketers love Autodesk

Bentley Systems marketers are currently taking advantage of Autodesk customers’ distaste for the Big A’s rent-or-GTFO business model.

For any Autodesk competitor, this is a fairly smart move. Autodesk has offered a free kick to its competitors and is betting on them all kicking the ball wide of the net. How accurate is Bentley’s shooting?

In this case, AutoCAD customers are being encouraged to take up MicroStation. Via the Cadalyst Direct opt-in advertising list, I received an email entitled AutoCAD Users, you need options. We listened:

Talk about feeling trapped (which has many Autodesk customers angry), options and flexibility (which Autodesk has removed) and listening (which Autodesk really sucks at) are clearly taking advantage of Autodesk’s self-inflicted subscription …

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Autodesk subscription offer begins today

It’s 15 June, which means all of those millions of Autodesk customers with perpetual licenses on maintenance can now give those licenses back to Autodesk and rent them back for about the same amount.


Despite Autodesk’s best efforts to sell this deal as a silk purse, it’s a real pig’s ear.

Artificially raising maintenance prices doesn’t make the subscription changeover deal any more attractive. It only serves to annoy those customers too sensible to throw away their valuable perpetual licences in return for a temporary price freeze and the vaguest of promises not to gouge you in future. History tells you exactly how much that promise is worth.

This can only be described as an astonishingly arrogant ambit claim by Autodesk. It should be ignored to death. Like any sign-up-now-or-lose-out used car deal, walking out of the …

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AutoCAD 2018 licensing crash – another reason to avoid subscription

Autodesk has released an update to fix the following AutoCAD 2018 problem:

Product users of version 2018 Autodesk single-user subscriptions may experience an intermittent crash. The crash occurs when it has been more than 24 hours since the last successful authorization check and there is intermittent or no internet connection, or the licensing authorization server is unavailable. The licensing authorization check occurs in the background and is completely unrelated to activities the user is performing at the time of the crash.
A fatal error message may be shown by the product. For example:

FATAL ERROR: Unhandled e06d7363h Exception at ee563c58h


Note that this crash only afflicts subscription (rental) single-user (standalone) customers. People with perpetual licenses don’t have to put up with the multiple additional points of failure caused by the subscription licensing system insisting on phoning home every 30 days. Yes, even if you pay for three years’ subscription up front, you’ll still need a working Internet connection every 30 days if you want to keep using the product.

At least, Autodesk has been saying it’s only once every 30 days (as if that wasn’t bad enough). The information provided with this hotfix tells a different story. What is the license server doing phoning home 24 hours after the last successful authorization check? Enquiring minds want to know.

No criticism of Autodesk is implied for providing this hotfix. As always, I commend Autodesk for fixing up problems as they arise. The basis of my criticism is the hotfix being necessary in the first place. It’s caused by Autodesk inflicting unnecessary complication on its customers for its own internal reasons. This one fails the “how does this benefit the customer?” test big-time.

The single-user subscription licensing mechanism has been a crock from day one, especially for CAD Managers of multiple users who have to deal with its onerous requirements. It’s an astonishingly poor design, very badly implemented. Even with this particular crash fixed, it’s still a crock.

ADSK celebrates two full years of losses

Autodesk Reports Strong First Quarter Results, says the press release.

Autodesk co-CEO Amar Hanspal:

Broad-based strength across all subscription types and geographies led to another record quarter for total subscription additions and a fantastic start of the new fiscal year. Customers continue to embrace the subscription model, and we’re expanding our market opportunity with continued momentum of our cloud-based offerings, such as BIM 360 and Fusion 360.

Autodesk co-CEO Andrew Anagnost:

We’re executing well and making significant progress on our business model transition as evidenced by our first quarter results. We’re starting the year from a position of strength and are excited to kick off the next phase of our transition when we offer our maintenance customers a simple, cost effective path to product subscription starting next month.

Thanks to this fantastic progress into the exciting new customer-embraced rental-only business model, Autodesk has now recorded eight successive …

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Teresa from Autodesk in subscription interview

As a follow-up to the Pixel Fondue video I posted about earlier, Greg from Pixel Fondue conducted a follow-up interview with Teresa Anania, Autodesk’s Senior Director, Subscription Success.

Greg and I asked for your questions for Teresa and I passed on several of my own to him. A word of warning: don’t do as I did and watch through all 54 minutes waiting increasingly impatiently for those questions to come up. They don’t. Anyway, thanks to Greg for conducting this interview and to Teresa for participating.

Greg has now posted the video. Here’s the TL;DW (too long; didn’t watch) version:

  • Greg came up with some suggestions for making subscription more attractive (mainly to entertainment and media customers) and Teresa seemed open to those suggestions.
  • Teresa doubled down on a bunch of the spin that has been thoroughly skewered by …

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The big Bricsys interview 7 – the applications ecosystem

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh.

In this post, Erik discusses the Bricsys efforts to work with and assist third-party developers. He does this without being prompted by a question – it’s obviously very important to him.

Erik: For our future growth it’s very important, the ecosystem of the applications we have now. We have talked a lot about what we are doing and about our own products, but we should maybe have spent more time on the importance of the ecosystem. The worst thing we could do is forget the application market for us.

We will not, and we are not able, to develop another HVAC system or a [inaudible] system. We are limited in our resources and focused too much in our development. We believe that if there are five …

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The big Bricsys interview 6 – lean and focused

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh. In this post, the dynamic duo explain the mystery of how Bricsys can sell smaller numbers of a more capable product than AutoCAD for a fraction of the cost – and still make money.

Steve: It’s kind of interesting that your product is so much cheaper than AutoCAD, and more capable. They’re making a loss and you’re making increasing profits. How does that work?

Erik: I think it has to do with being lean and being focused. I mean, we’re talking about Autodesk, and we’re talking about AutoCAD and Revit and Inventor, but did you have a look at all the products they have? The managers that have to work on those products… I don’t study the detail of their annual figures, but I think it’s …

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The big Bricsys interview 5 – perpetual licensing and choice

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh.

In this post, Erik confirms the Bricsys commitment to perpetual licensing. That’s a statement important enough to preserve, so here’s the recorded audio for posterity.

We also learn what proportion of CAD customers choose perpetual licenses over rental when given fair pricing and the choice. Hint to Autodesk: it’s not 0%.

Steve: Are you committed to the perpetual licensing model?

Erik: Yes, yes. We are committed to choice. If somebody wants another way of licensing our stuff, that’s fine as well. I mean you can hire our stuff, you can pay per month, it’s possible.

Steve: That’s not in all markets, is it?

Erik: We don’t promote it, but it’s possible if somebody contacts us, no problem. It’s choice, and we believe …

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Clearing up the Autodesk rental / subscription / maintenance naming confusion

Some people are confused by Autodesk’s naming terminology about subscription, maintenance and rental. This is entirely Autodesk’s fault, because it took a name (Subscription) which had a long-established meaning (including perpetual licensing) and used that name (but without its initial capital) to mean the opposite (no perpetual licensing).

There was a brief period, only last year, where the S word meant both things at the same time and differentiation between the opposing meanings was achieved using different prefixes.

Confused yet?

I’m not sure whether it’s kinder to view Autodesk doing something so obviously confusing as merely incompetence in communication or a deliberate attempt to confuse and deceive customers and/or the share market. Or maybe it was an inspired choice and I’m too obtuse to comprehend its genius. Choose whichever explanation you prefer.

In an attempt to clear things up, but at the risk of confusing matters further, Autodesk’s naming history …

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The big Bricsys interview 4 – thank you, Autodesk

This is one of a series of posts covering an extensive interview with Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh. In this post, we learn that Autodesk’s move to all-rental has helped drive BricsCAD sales higher and continues to do so.

Cyrena: Backing up just a step to sales, were you able to track any impact on your sales numbers with the chronology of Autodesk’s announcements of ending perpetual? Did you see an effect that you could map to that?

Erik/Mark (together): Yes.

Erik: We see that especially with large companies. I hear it from Mark always!

Mark: That’s what I wanted to explain this morning too, although we have an indirect sales channel, we have our resellers at work out there, especially with the large deals, we are involved always. So there’s always one of our guys, a business development manager together with the local …

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Minority interest in keep-your-perpetual Autodesk subscription idea

It’s undeniable that the vast majority of Autodesk’s customers don’t want to give up their perpetual licenses to sign up with Autodesk’s subscription (rental) model. I’ve gone through the evidence for this in an earlier post.

To bring that up to date a little, here are the final results from the poll “Autodesk is ending the sale of perpetual licenses. This is: (Good/Bad)”:

People are clearly attached to their perpetual licenses, regardless of what Autodesk does to manipulate prices.

A while ago I floated the idea that Autodesk might possibly come up with a better offer; one that lets you keep your existing non-upgraded perpetual license when signing up for subscription. I wanted to …

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Autodesk’s revolting customers are evaporating

The revolting customers themselves aren’t evaporating, of course. They remain solid and are still as irate as ever. It’s just that the appearance of outrage is gradually fading away on the Autodesk Community forums.

As mentioned before, forum moderators have been busily vacuuming up threads from all over the place and moving them to the Moving to Subscription forum. Some time in the last week or so, that forum became less visible. It’s no longer listed among the bold links on the right pane under Subscription Management, but for now can still be found (if you look hard) in the list of 96 forums. Or at least you can get to the page above that forum, from where you can click on another link.

As it’s now so hard to …

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Hot tip for Autodesk

Hey Autodesk high-ups, I’m sorry you’ve been having so much trouble persuading your customers to throw away their perpetual licenses and throw themselves on your perpetual mercy. It’s clearly difficult to persuade technical types to do dumb things like rent your software at enormous and ever-increasing prices. I feel for you. But there’s an answer.

Find dumber customers.

Lots of them. And fast, before the stock market notices that you’re no Adobe and we’re not buying it. Sorry, I mean not renting it.

Look no further! Simply buy this company, discard the product when you’re bored with it (you’re very familiar with that process) and get hold of the customer list.

Dissecting Dieter’s perpetual points

I like Dieter Schlaepfer, we’ve been arguing for years.

Dieter and I have never met in person, but online we go back to the CIS:ACAD CompuServe days of the early 1990s. Dieter’s a good guy who has done a splendid job with AutoCAD documentation content for decades. He is genuinely interested in improving the product and customer experience, and has done a great deal to do so over the years.

Dieter’s responsible for the most-commented post on this blog, AutoCAD 2013 – An Autodesk Help writer responds with 164 comments and was a heavy contributor to the 95 comments on the recent AutoCAD 2018 – why did the DWG format change? post.

If you read the comments here, you’ll know that Dieter is the only Autodesk person brave enough to put his head above the parapet and enter into …

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Simplifying CAD Management the Autodesk way

According to Autodesk, one of the benefits of subscription (rental) is simplified administration. To prove it, Autodesk has provided a simple guide for CAD Managers called The Software Administrator’s Guide to Autodesk Subscriptions – How to Set Up, Install, and Manage Your Software and Users.

It’s 18.7 MB and 78 pages long.

Don’t worry though, this simple guide helpfully includes a simple guide on how to read it.

Among other things, this eBook provides handy hints on how subscription’s simplified administration regime for standalone licenses requires you to pre-emptively name all your users, set them all up with Autodesk accounts and define what software each is allowed to use. There’s a note to say that your Internet connection needs to be working at the time of installation (obviously) and also every 30 days (less obvious) or you won’t be able to use the software.

The guide …

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Autodesk customers are still revolting

I described before how customers are outraged by Autodesk’s attempt to price-force them onto subscription (rental). That’s still happening. The Autodesk Community forum moderators are still vacuuming up threads and Ideas submissions and moving them to the Moving to Subscription forum, which despite its obscurity is still active with some threads now having hundreds of posts.

Other discussions in various non-Autodesk locations are extending over many pages of comments. Almost all comments are highly critical of Autodesk. A large portion of these customers say they are abandoning Autodesk. Many are discussing the specific competitors’ software they are moving to.

In addition to the Autodesk forum staff confining commentary to a quiet corner, another way of keeping the public noise down is by directing people to talk to their resellers. Yesterday, I did just that. The rep who …

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New Autodesk subscription idea – any interest?

Let’s say Autodesk came up with a new offer for customers currently under maintenance. Let’s say you could switch to subscription (rental) with the same price as maintenance, locked in with no increases for three years. In addition, you get to retain, but not upgrade, your perpetual license.

Let’s say you’re on maintenance which is up for renewal later this year. You currently have a perpetual license of AutoCAD 2018. If you accept this offer, you will always retain that AutoCAD 2018 license. You switch to subscription and pay the maintenance amount for one to three years. Your subscription fee is guaranteed to rise by no more than 20% total by year five.

As long as you continue to pay subscription, you get access to new releases (2019, 2020, etc). If you decide to no longer renew your subscription at any point, you can no longer use the new releases, …

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New Autodesk subscription offer to perpetual license holders

Don’t get too excited. Autodesk’s recent attempt to price-force perpetual license maintenance customers onto subscription (rental) remains in place, unchanged and just as unappealing as before. If you’re one of those customers, there’s nothing new here of interest to you.

This new offer, at 30% off the normal but extremely high subscription price, is at first sight even less appealing than the approximately 60% saving that the above offer provides. But it’s aimed at different customers, and there’s the remote possibility that such customers might find it worthwhile.

The new offer is called FY18 Q1 Autodesk – Global Field Promotion and is aimed at bringing into the rental fold those customers who hold old perpetual licenses that are not on maintenance. If you have an old AutoCAD Release 14 lying around that has never been upgraded, or an AutoCAD 2007 license where you allowed the maintenance …

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Ask Teresa from Autodesk your maintenance and subscription questions

As a follow-up to the Pixel Fondue video I posted earlier, Greg reports:

Since then Teresa Anania (Teresa from the letter) has contacted me and has agreed to do a pixelfondue livestream and answer some questions people may have. So…if you want to ask Teresa something directly post your question here and I will send it to her. I obviously can’t guarantee that I will ask (or she will answer) all questions. Teresa is (to her credit) reaching out to customers in a more personal way here – and maybe we can help her understand our feelings about AD’s move to subscription, especially how it pertains to current license holders.

Teresa Anania is Autodesk’s Senior Director, Subscription Success. It is indeed commendable that Teresa is prepared to step out of the Autodesk PR safe zone and field questions and comments from real people in an environment …

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