Disaster in progress – Autodesk’s all-rental plans are failing

It has been observed elsewhere that Autodesk’s decision to stop selling software has had the expected results. (Expected by me and others, but apparently not by Autodesk). Rental? We’re not buying it. Literally. What does this (and a bunch of other factors) mean for Autodesk’s profitability? Numbers from Tenlinks (with FY corrected), data accumulated from Autodesk sources. Autodesk lost $486m over the last 4 quarters, compared with a profit of $73m the 4 quarters before that and a profit of $202m the 4 quarters before that. Looks like a nose dive to me. But things are just wonderful, according to Carl Bass: We had a strong first quarter, which builds on last quarter’s momentum and is a great start to the fiscal year. Our customers and partners continue to embrace Autodesk’s transition to a subscription-based business model and cloud-based software. We continue to diligently control our costs while investing in the transition. We’re striking a healthy balance in achieving both short-term and long-term goals. Disclaimer: I’m not a business analyst and nobody should make financial decisions based on anything I have to say. But it seems to me that Carl’s whistling past the graveyard and disaster for Autodesk isn’t just looming, it’s well under way. I doubt the board is unaware of this, whatever spin they feel obliged to put on things. I wonder what action Autodesk will take? Here are my guesses in descending order of probability: 1. Keep steering the plane downwards and continue to pretend the flight plan is a good one. Carefully arrange golden parachutes for the pilots so they can jump out of the plane just before it hits the ground. 2. Go even harder at the customers, aggressively pressuring every customer into rental much earlier than originally planned. There are various methods that could…

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Suites to be replaced by Autodesk industry collections

I just got this email. Maybe you did too: Dear Christopher [sic],   I have some important information to share with you.   As we continue our transition to a fully subscription-based business, we remain committed to providing you greater value, more flexibility, and a simpler way to access the Autodesk software you need.   On August 1, 2016, we will introduce Autodesk industry collections and end the sale of Autodesk Design & Creation Suites.   Industry collections will provide you access to a wide selection of the essential Autodesk software for your profession. They will offer immediate access to new technology, cloud services, and several licensing options. In short, industry collections will give you the freedom to access the software products you want, when you want them. Learn more about the industry collections here.   To make way for industry collections, we will end the sale of new Design & Creation Suite subscriptions and perpetual licenses after July 31, 2016.   If you wish to purchase more Design & Creation Suites before August 1, 2016, we encourage you to subscribe now and rest assured that we will provide you with a simple way to switch to an industry collection in the future, if you so choose. If you prefer, you can purchase perpetual licenses of a Design & Creation Suite with a maintenance plan before August 1.   If you wish to continue receiving updates, support, and other benefits for your Design & Creation Suites, you can do so for as long as you continue your existing subscription or maintenance plan.   To learn more about Autodesk industry collections and options for switching your subscription (if you choose to do so) please read our Frequently Asked Questions. [I fixed the email’s URL which didn’t point to the FAQ].  …

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Don’t be a technology lemming

In response to Shaan’s variant on the old “if you question the value of any change you must be a Luddite” argument, I was going to write a lemming-based parody. I didn’t, mainly because I didn’t want to perpetuate the lemming mass-suicide misconception. Instead, I’ll answer the point more directly. Autodesk will acheive better success in convincing customers about Cloud computing and other concepts by actively and interactively engaging with them. Addressing their specific and legitimate concerns has a chance of success if the concepts have merit. Insultingly likening customers to allegedly stupid animals isn’t going to convince anyone. Besides, the point has little validity. Armadillos have 20 species, are currently dramatically increasing their territory in North America, and have been around rather longer than humans. Maybe we should wait until we’ve been around a few tens of millions of years longer before we get too cocky about how terrible those stupid armadillos are at surviving. Edit: Shaan has responded to this post on his own blog, deleted my reply and closed comments. He seems rather upset about something. Edit: …and has now restored my comment and opened comments again.

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Carl Bass confirms Cloud-only future for Autodesk – or does he?

As reported by Joe Francica (via WorldCAD Access), Carl Bass has confirmed, in a somewhat ambiguous way, that his Cloud-only vision rules at Autodesk. I do believe that everything is moving to the cloud. But… There are a lot of applications that will [still] be done on the desktop. Whether Autodesk does it or not, I can’t think of a single function that won’t necessarily be done in the cloud. Still a bit confused? Me too. It’s not clear where this leaves his underlings who have been rushing to contradict Carl’s earlier statements by unambiguously reassuring customers that Autodesk would continue to provide desktop software. Will they now come out with “clarifying” statements that fall into line with whatever it is Carl’s saying here? I doubt it, that would be just too embarrassing. I suspect we’ll see things go very quiet on this subject for a while. Now we know (or do we?) it’s full steam ahead with desktop dismantlement, what about all those Cloud concerns? Carl does the standard Cloud PR thing of “addressing” that question by restating some of the concerns, ignoring others, but not coming up with answers for any of them other than expressing a vague hope that some of them will go away: Foremost in people’s mind is security, privacy, reliability, confidential information. Some of those concerns will fall by the wayside. Asked to come up with a compelling reason for customers to embrace the Cloud, he didn’t: In many cases, for anyone to move to any technology platform you have to do more than what people have today. So what’s the compelling event? I think what you will see in the cloud is that it will look like every other disruptive technology. Some people will downplay it. Some will poo poo it. More of the same, then. It’s disruptive, but…

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MDT users and other Autodesk orphans, let’s have your good news stories!

I was going to ignore this subject, but I’ve changed my mind because it allows me to post something positive about Autodesk. After all, I do try to post positive things; it’s hardly my fault that Autodesk has a habit of making it difficult. In upFront eZine #756, Autodesk’s Andrew Anagnost (or was it Clay Helm?) had the following to say, and must say I agree totally with the first sentence: The best evidence is how we have behaved historically. When we included Mechanical Desktop with Inventor, the media complained that we were killing Mechanical Desktop; you were probably one of them. But we didn’t; we came out with six, seven more releases of it, completely free. So, MDT users, you’re the poster child for how Autodesk looks after its customers. You’re also evidence for how wrong those nasty media naysayers can be. So here’s your opportunity to offer your gratitude to Autodesk for looking after you so well and giving you all that completely free software. Or perhaps you’re the user of another Autodesk product that fell out of fashion or was deemed a technological dead end (like desktop software, apparently). Let’s hear your good news stories about how well Autodesk treated you and your investment. If you don’t want to add a comment, there’s a poll over on the right. I look forward to seeing the “Brilliantly” option show a near-100% rating!

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Autodesk’s social media consultant spills the beans

Ever wondered why Autodesk is putting so much emphasis on social media these days? Why AutoCAD needs Facebook and Twitter commands? It’s because Autodesk pays social media consultants lots of money to tell them about the importance of social media, and how to be social and media-ish. In this video, one of those consultants explains the process:

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Who is telling the truth in Autodesk’s Cloud PR trainwreck?

Does Autodesk intend to move all its applications exclusively to the Cloud? That is, online only and no longer available on the desktop? Autodesk people who say yes: Carl Bass, CEO Phil Bernstein, Vice President, Building Industry Strategy and Relations Scott Sheppard, Autodesk Labs Software Development Manager (with private Cloud caveat) Autodesk people who say no: Kenneth Pimentel, Director, Visual Communications Solutions Andrew Anagnost, Senior Vice President of Industry Strategy and Marketing Clay Helm, Public Relations Manager for Manufacturing, Cross-Platform, Sustainability, and Consumers Various other underlings who make reassuring but non-specific noises about expanded choice, or who admit to inconvenient impracticalities There’s huge irony in the way Clay (or Andrew) attempts to paint the shafting of MDT customers as a we’ll-look-after-you example, but I think that’s a deliberate distraction tactic; other than this comment I’m going to ignore it. I’m ignoring, too, the spin about informal interviews, misinterpretation and the like. There’s a black-and-white contradiction here. Autodesk either intends to move all its applications online and away from the desktop, or it doesn’t. Two men say they’re Jesus One of ’em must be wrong Dire Straits – Industrial Disease So who do we believe? Last time I looked at an org chart, the CEO trumped the lot. The buck stops with Carl. So why is he letting his underlings go around undermining his Cloudy Vision? I see the following possibilities: Autodesk is going Cloud-only but it’s supposed to be a secret. Carl let it slip out and the underlings have been sent to try to cover the tracks by confusing and obfuscating. Autodesk is going Cloud-only, Carl had it right, but the underlings haven’t all been told yet and are incorrect in their “corrections”. Autodesk isn’t going Cloud only and Carl was just making stuff up on the fly. Why?…

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Autodesk confirms outrageous upgrade price increase

As I indicated in May, Autodesk will be increasing the cost of upgrades to 70% of the full retail cost of a new license. This renders it totally pointless upgrading Autodesk software at all, which is obviously Autodesk’s intention. This change probably won’t affect many people, as those who have chosen to stick with Autodesk despite everything have already been effectively forced onto Subscription. Anyway, here’s the confirmation from Autodesk: In early 2013 Autodesk will simplify the current upgrade pricing model, which may affect pricing and/or eligibility for upgrades.  Autodesk is providing advance notice to help ease the transition and ensure that customers have enough time to plan and budget for any impact to your organization.  As part of this change, Autodesk will be simplifying upgrades into a single offering available for licenses that are 1-6 versions old at a discount of 30% off new license SRP*.  Under the new upgrade program, product versions 2007-2012 are eligible for upgrade pricing and product versions older than 2007 will no longer be eligible for upgrade pricing on our standard pricelists. Our records show you may have one or more licenses that may be impacted by these changes. Autodesk is making this policy change to better align with the needs and buying behaviors of our customers.  Many Autodesk customers choose to use Autodesk Subscription as their preferred method of maintaining their Autodesk Software. That last paragraph is just embarrassing. It steps over the line that separates spin from total bullshit. The person who wrote it must have been either cringing (if they have any kind of ethical values) or laughing (if they don’t). The time of Autodesk being straight with its customers is now so far in the past that few customers will be able to remember those days. Those of us who do…

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Autodesk buys more social media stuff

Following up on its acquisition of Socialcam (which was then abandoned by 50 million users), Autodesk has acquired social media platform Qontext from Indian company Pramati. What exactly is this? I have no idea. I tried to find out by reading the Pramati site, but it’s so heavily obscured in trendy but vague corporatespeak it’s hard to work out anything firm. I played Buzzword Bingo while reading the site and won within seconds. Maybe the Autodesk statement clarifies things? “Mobile, cloud and social computing are dramatically changing the way engineers, designers and architects work. The addition of the Qontext technology to the Autodesk portfolio will lead to new technology innovations that help our customers embrace these disruptive technologies and leverage them for competitive advantage,” said Amar Hanspal, Autodesk senior vice president of information modeling and platform products. “It was great to work with the team at Pramati who have demonstrated a great capability in incubating disruptive businesses.” Well, that’s cleared that up, then. Apparently, Autodesk has bought a bunch of buzzwords. Must have been running short of them or something. I hope it was worth it.

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Autodesk is firing. No, wait! Hiring.

August 2012: Autodesk increases profits, but not as much as expected, and gets rid of 500 people. This sort of thing has happened before, resulting in the loss of good, skilled people, some with many years of priceless and irreplacable experience. September 2012: Autodesk goes on a recruiting drive. So, if you want to work for a company that will put you out with the trash the next time reality doesn’t quite match some financial analyst’s estimate, you know where to go. Good luck with that.

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AutoCAD Help suckage to continue – confirmed

In a recent post on Between the Lines, Shaan passed on the following response from the AutoCAD Team: There has been some recent discussions about the built-in help system in AutoCAD 2013, both positive and some criticism.  As our longtime users know, AutoCAD help has been through many evolutions. We are particularly proud of the new AutoCAD 2013 online learning environment we recently released (AutoCAD Online Help Mid-Year Updates.) This update addressed several user requested fixes and changes, and we will continue to take our direction from our user’s feedback. We do recognize that the online learning environment may not be the solution for every user, so while we are focused on creating a rich and personalized online experience, we will continue to maintain our current basic offline experience. (The emphasis is mine). This statement, although couched in marketingspeak, confirms what I’ve had to say on the subject. Here’s my translation into plain English: AutoCAD 2013 Help sucked, the customers said so, the recent update improved matters somewhat for online users, but the awful old system stays in place for offline users. The offline system is in maintenance mode, and the experience will continue to remain basic (i.e. it will suck long-term). There’s no mention of correcting this situation; it’s clearly a matter of policy rather than some unfortunate accident. Today, I was using Autodesk Navisworks Manage 2013. As you might expect from an Autodesk product, it’s powerful but unstable. In addition to the lockups and crashes, it has various bugs and annoyances. In looking for a way of working around one of the annoyances, I delved into the Help system. Strangely enough, this product (much younger than AutoCAD) uses something that looks remarkably like an old-fashioned CHM-based Help system. It worked offline. It was quick. It had contents, search…

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I was wrong about AutoCAD 2013 Help, it still sucks

In my effusive welcome of AutoCAD 2013’s updated Help system, I wondered if I had been shocked into missing some glaring problem. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. In my enthusiasm, I managed to totally miss the fact that the new system has not been introduced for offline users. If you use the new system, there’s a link on the front page to the offline files. I got as far as downloading and installing what I thought was the offline version of the new system and discovered that it didn’t want to install because the old one was already installed. What I should have then done, and didn’t, was to uninstall the old and install the new, before running it in offline mode. I intended to get around to that to check the performance and responsiveness of the respective versions, but didn’t have the time right then. If I had done so, I would have noticed that my download, uninstall and reinstall would have been in vain, because the offline version pointed to by the new system is still the old version. My apologies to anybody who wasted their time because of what I originally wrote. There are many legitimate reasons why Autodesk customers want or need to use their software, including the documentation, entirely in offline mode. For example, the users I manage can’t access the online Help system from AutoCAD because Autodesk writes its software in such a way as to fail in a secure proxy server environment (yes, this has been reported as a bug, repeatedly). So for my users and many others, it’s true to say that despite the best efforts of Dieter and his team, AutoCAD 2013’s Help still sucks. Look at this from the point of view of such offline AutoCAD 2013 Help users. We…

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Cloud concerns – Security – Autodesk puts its arguments on line

I’ve made the point before that while Cloud proponents like Autodesk have been happy to talk big on the potential benefits, they have been conspicuously (suspiciously?) silent on the legitimate concerns their customers have raised. The best responses you have been likely to see regarding such concerns can best be characterised as “glossing over”. So it’s good to see that Autodesk has put together a white-paper-type-thing called Autodesk® 360: Work Wherever You Are – Safely. This 275 KB PDF, with 5 pages of actual content, puts Autodesk’s point of view about one of the aspects of Cloud that people commonly raise as a concern. This is a good start, but of course there are quite a few potential dealbreakers that need addressing yet. How well does this document address this issue? As you’d expect from Autodesk, it’s gung-ho positive, but there is at least some acknowledgement of Cloud concerns, e.g. “Customer experiences, however, can be largely impacted by the speed and quality of their Internet connection”. In addition to such occasional connections with the real world, there are some categorical assurances that may make some potential users happier. Here are some examples: Autodesk 360 is delivered from data centers in the United States. Files and identities are safe during storage, transit, and usage. As part of Autodesk‟s due diligence for customer security and protection, prospective Autodesk personnel with potential access to sensitive data are screened through background checks before being employed. Once purged, your data may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time but will not be recovered or read by anyone. Customers own the content they create. While that’s all well and good, Autodesk needs to get its legal team reading off the same page and fix up its terms and conditions to make them less…

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AutoCAD 2013 – Autodesk video tutorial for Help

Autodesk has produced a 2-minute video explaining the features of the new Help system in AutoCAD 2013 that I recently panned. As you might expect, it’s kind of upbeat and chirpy, but the fact that Autodesk feels the need to provide a tutorial on how to use Help says it all, really. Whatever, it may be useful to you, so here it is. It’s hosted on the Autodesk site, unlike many other Autodesk videos (and my own, to be fair), so those of you who have YouTube blocked at work may still be able to watch it. If you’re having trouble watching the tutorial, don’t panic. I expect Autodesk will soon produce another tutorial explaining how to use the tutorial explaining how to use Help explaining how to use the product to actually do work.

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Autodesk acquires Angry Birds developer Rovio

Autodesk announced today that it had welcomed Rovio Entertainment into the Autodesk fold. Following a US$2.6 billion acquisition, the publisher of mega hit video game Angry Birds is now Autodesk’s Mobile Entertainment division based in Espoo, Finland. “This is a tremendously exciting development for Autodesk going forward,” said Autodesk CEO Carl Bass. “Rovio is the world leader in mobile entertainment software,” he added, “so for Autodesk to have access to that market and that technology opens up a whole new world for us.” Bass was effusive about the synergistic benefits of the merger and the benefits it will bring to the user interfaces of all Autodesk products. “When a kid starts playing Angry Birds, they don’t need to read a huge mass of documentation. Just show them a few cartoons and they’re away, instantly productive. This is the essence of the democratization of design; it’s not dumbing down, it’s funning up.” This potential ease of use is excellent news for AutoCAD users, because the documentation is now so terrible that it will be wonderful if we no longer have to try to use it. Former Rovio CEO, Taikke Monniennren, now Autodesk Vice President in charge of Mobile Entertainment, is equally excited about the future. “We have already been given access to the Autodesk code base and my developers can see the potential there. By copying and pasting some code modules, we hope to be able to piece together the Angry Birds 3D Max Suite in a few short years,” said Monniennren. “The main challenge will be in keeping the download size manageable, but with a bit of luck we will be able to keep it down to just a few gigabytes.” In comparison, the original Angry Birds game was just over a megabyte. “Do not underestimate the strategic importance of this…

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AutoCAD 2013 – Download the trial without Akamai

It’s AutoCAD new release time again and many of you will want to get hold of the trial software, or download the production software from the trial site rather than the Subscription site for performance or other reasons (the resultant downloads are identical). As in previous years, Autodesk is heavily pushing the use of the Akamai Download Manager to download it, going to what I consider unethical lengths to do so. For a variety of reasons, some of which I’m not at liberty to discuss and others of which I have already discussed extensively, I strongly recommend not installing this software. In my view, it is a very bad idea to let anything by Akamai anywhere near your computer. If you’re in a secure corporate environment, it’s quite likely that you won’t be able to do so, or if you can, that it won’t work anyway. Although the Autodesk download process gives every impression that you have no choice in the matter, this is not true. In the past I have had to install an unsupported browser (Opera) to get at a straightforward download link, but this time it is possible to get the software without having to resort to that. Here’s what to do. Go to http://usa.autodesk.com/autocad/trial/, fill in the form and click the Download Now button. You will be presented with this screen: This is a pack of lies. Ignore everything except the line that says If you cannot complete the installation, click here. Click that and you will see this: The feedback link takes you to Akamai’s site so it’s probably not useful as a mechanism to let Autodesk know what you think of its use of the Akamai Download Manager. I have used it in the past and it’s a black hole, so don’t waste your…

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Autodesk Cloud-based structural engineering software review

As I’ve already discussed, one of the areas where CAD on the Cloud shows potential is in handling specific tasks that require performing intensive calculations that are suitable for sharing among many processors. That sounds great in theory, and a lot of Cloud marketing (e.g. Virtually Infinite Computing) emphasises that point. OK, that sounds promising, but how does it pan out in real life? One problem dissuading me from finding out is that Autodesk is being very restrictive with access to many of its Autodesk Cloud products (I’d probably throw a few sample render jobs into the Cloud and compare the performance, but I’m not the right kind of Subscription customer so I’m not allowed). Another problem is that I’m not qualified to review things like structural engineering software where the greatest computational potential appears to lie. Fortunately, Alex Bausk is qualified, so it was interesting to read his review of Autodesk’s Project Storm software. It’s important to point out here that anything Autodesk with ‘Project’ in the name is not a finished product. It’s an Autodesk Labs thing, designed to attract feedback rather than use in production. I very much approve of this process. It’s one area in which I’m happy to endorse the way Autodesk is approaching the whole Cloud thing, and has several benefits over the flawed private Beta process that Autodesk uses for its mainstream products such as AutoCAD. The downside for Autodesk when it comes to doing pre-release things publicly is that the criticism can be public, too. For example, selected from Alex’s review: …the product is, for reasons unknown, available only in selected countries… …utterly meaningless popups… Options for analysis settings are, to put it short, appalling. Project Storm is nothing more than a web envelope for our good old ARSA package. It is basically…

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Is a CAD in the Cloud takeover inevitable?

One argument that CAD in the Cloud supporters sometimes make is that the Cloud is taking over regardless of what anybody thinks, so we might as well just embrace it and reap the benefits. Nice try, Nostradamus, but I’ve been around computers long enough to see many Next Big Things come to nothing and am thoroughly unconvinced by such attempts at self-fulfilling prophecy. How inevitable is a CAD in the Cloud takeover, in terms of Cloud-based applications replacing traditional software? I’ve added a poll with a specific question about that, so it’s your turn to play soothsayer. What are the chances of you using a public Cloud-based application as your primary CAD software in 5 years? Please vote, and as always, your comments are welcome.

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Autodesk Cloud – don’t panic, business as usual

Autodesk recently made a big announcement about its Cloud initiatives, and reactions have been all over the place. Some people can barely contain their breathless excitement while others are outraged to the point of passing out the pitchforks. Why? It’s pretty much business as usual. It’s nothing like Dassault’s disastrous we’re-moving-you-to-the-Cloud FUD campaign against its own product, SolidWorks. There’s no hint here of AutoCAD (real AutoCAD, I mean, not “AutoCAD” WS) being moved to the Cloud, or anything as radical as that. (Yes, I know there’s a limited experiment along those lines but that’s nothing to do with this announcement). It’s just a collection of relatively minor changes to Autodesk’s existing on-line services, collected together to make a newsworthy press release. (As an aside, I must say this was a much more worthwhile announcement than the ridiculously over-hyped DE8.16N thing. So I was supposed to get excited about a routine upgrade of a product I have already been using for months, on an OS I don’t use, when the upgraded product is still half-baked just like the first underwhelming effort? Fortunately, I didn’t get sucked in by the pre-announcement build-up so I wasn’t disappointed, just amused when the truth was revealed. Autodesk PR, please don’t cry wolf so often; keep the hype in reserve for the hypeworthy stuff.) Back to the Cloud thing, and putting aside hype and horror, here’s the stuff that has just happened: Autodesk Cloud documents lets anybody store up to 1 GB documents on-line, or 3 GB if you’re a Subscription customer. This isn’t new, but until recently it was an Autodesk Labs project called Nitrous. The infrastructure is provided via Amazon and Citrix. AutoCAD WS has been updated to integrate its storage with Autodesk Cloud documents. Remember, WS isn’t anything like real AutoCAD, but rather a limited on-line DWG editing tool.…

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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 complete waste of money. If Mac users want Windows-level functionality, they should use Bootcamp. The Mac version is intended to expand the AutoCAD market to those Mac users who are frustrated by Bootcamp or who find it too hard. Some mind-blowing spin was attempted in a valiant but vain attempt to explain away the Ribbon = productivity, Mac <> Ribbon marketing problem. You will really have to read it for yourself, as I can’t do it justice here. But “just because 2+2=4 doesn’t mean 4-2=2” will give you some idea of what to expect. The Mac version is the same price as the Windows version, despite being incomplete, because Mac users won’t know or care about the missing stuff. There are no plans for a Linux port, or any other platforms. Autodesk will wait and see how AutoCAD for Mac does before porting any of the vertical products. (Very sensible). Autodesk closed off the AutoCAD…

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