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 … Full post

Trusting Autodesk – poll results

I have closed the polls asking if you trusted various companies to do the right thing by their customers. Here is a summary of the results, showing the percentage of “Yes” votes for each company. The most trusted company is at the top, the least trusted is at the bottom.

  • Honda 69%
  • Amazon 65%
  • Target 52%
  • Bricsys 43%
  • Apple 36%
  • Autodesk 23%
  • Remember, this is not a scientific poll and as with all polls and surveys there will be some self-selection bias. Does anyone find anything about the above results surprising?

    Why don’t you trust Autodesk?

    As I mentioned earlier, any company that wants to move its customers to the Cloud is going to need the trust of those customers. Three months ago, I started a poll to try to get some measure of how trustworthy you consider Autodesk to be, in terms of doing the right thing by its customers. The results of that poll look pretty awful for Autodesk. Right from the start, the distrusters have outnumbered the trusters by three to one, with the current results showing an overwhelming majority of respondents (77%) not trusting Autodesk.

    Why? What has Autodesk done in the past, or is doing now, that leads people to this level of distrust? If you have voted in this poll, I’d like to know your reasons, so please add your comments whichever way you voted. If you think there’s an issue with the question wording and/or its simple … Full post

    Cloud concerns – trust

    Using any software involves some degree of trust in the vendor. Using the Cloud requires a much higher level of trust.

    Autodesk boss Carl Bass is a maker of carefully crafted things, so I’ll use that as an analogy. Using standalone software requires the sort of trust that a maker has in a tool manufacturer. Will the tools work properly and last a long time? Or will they break, potentially damaging the materials or even the user?

    Using SaaS requires that same kind of trust, plus others. Will the tool manufacturer keep making that tool? If not, will spare parts continue to be available? Will the manufacturer change the tool design so it doesn’t suit your hand any more, or doesn’t work as well on the materials you use? Beyond that, there are some aspects of the relationship that stretch this analogy somewhat. For example, a SaaS vendor resembles a manufacturer that … Full post

    Poll of evil

    I have closed the Which of these is most evil? poll, which had been running from 20 February 2009. It attracted 2,351 voters, each of whom could distribute up to three votes among thirteen (yes, that number was deliberate) candidates. Here are the ranked results:

  • Satan (36%, 846 Votes)
  • Microsoft (31%, 721 Votes)
  • Apple (26%, 614 Votes)
  • RIAA/IFPI/MPAA (26%, 601 Votes)
  • Miley Cyrus (23%, 546 Votes)
  • Autodesk (23%, 536 Votes)
  • Disney (16%, 382 Votes)
  • Google (10%, 230 Votes)
  • Dell (7%, 172 Votes)
  • The Pirate Bay (6%, 147 Votes)
  • Sony (6%, 140 Votes)
  • Steve Johnson (4%, 89 Votes)
  • Gaahl (3%, 82 Votes)
  • That top three is not going to shock anyone (except perhaps some fanbois), but are some surprises in the list. For example, more than a quarter of voters were aware enough of the evils of Big Content to be able to decipher the alphabet soup RIAA/IFPI/MPAA choice and select it. More than … 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

    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 … Full post

    Will Autodesk have to explain itself to the SEC?

    The observant among you may have noticed that for many years, Autodesk’s free patches, service packs and updates haven’t added any new functionality. Bugs may get fixed, severe performance issues may be addressed, but design errors generally have to wait for the next release (at the earliest), and new features definitely don’t get added.

    The last time new functionality was added to AutoCAD in a free maintenance release was Release 13’s c4 update which shipped on 12 February 1996. (There was a public beta available some months earlier; I picked up a copy at Autodesk University 1995). That free update contained not only a host of bug fixes, but also more useful new features than some later full-price upgrades (e.g. AutoCAD 2000i). In an outbreak of outstanding customer service, a c4 CD was shipped free to all registered users. Maybe Autodesk was trying to recover from disastrously shipping Release 13 prematurely, … Full post

    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), … Full post

    More Autodesk deception over LT productivity study

    Following on from the AutoCAD 2011 productivity study I critiqued earlier, there is now an LT version. Do the same credibility problems apply to this study too? Yes, and then some.

    In addition to the drawings and operations being deliberately hand-picked to demonstrate new features, no direct comparison is performed at all between the two releases on the same platforms. Every single quoted “productivity improvement” figure includes, free of charge, three years of hardware and operating system progress and a more upmarket graphics card.

    If you read business “news” sources that just reprint press releases, such as this Yahoo! Finance one (thanks, Carol Bartz), you won’t see this mentioned. Instead, you will see deceptive statements like these:

    David S. Cohn, an independent consultant

    Er, no, in this context he’s not independent, he’s an Autodesk consultant. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    overall productivity gains of 44 … Full post

    More Autodesk research – Groups

    Here’s an announcement from the AutoCAD Product Design & User Experience Team:

    AutoCAD User Research Study: “AutoCAD Groups”(AutoCAD Group command)

    AutoCAD Product Design & User Experience Team is looking for your input regarding the AutoCAD GROUP command usage.

    The GROUP command (Object Grouping Dialog) in AutoCAD allows creating a selection set of objects called a group.
    When an object belongs to a group, if any object in the group is selected, all the objects in the group are selected.
    Groups can be named or unnamed. Groups can be ungrouped/(exploded), which removes the relationship between the objects in the group.

    Autodesk wants to better understand how you use Groups so we can improve the feature.

    http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AutoCAD_GroupCommand

    Go to it, people. It’s good to see some attention being given to some long-neglected parts of AutoCAD. What next, LISP?

    Autodesk discussion group update – what do you think?

    On 4 June 2010, Autodesk turned off NNTP access to its discussion groups as part of the process of updating its software to use a different engine (the new one is from Lithium – here are its own forums). I am preparing a large post about what I think of the new web interface, but for now let’s hear from you on that subject. Please vote in the poll on the right, and add your comments once you’ve had a chance to put the “state-of-the-art web experience Autodesk customers have come to expect” through its paces.

    In related news, I have now closed the short-lived poll about the end of NNTP access to these groups. The results were:

    Should Autodesk shut down NNTP access to its discussion groups?
    Yes (8.8%, 5 Votes)
    No (59.6%, 34 Votes)
    Don’t care (31.6%, 18 Votes)
    Full post

    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

    Autodesk to kill NNTP discussion groups

    As of 4 June, Autodesk intends to update its discussion group software to something that does not support newsgroup (NNTP) access. From an email by Autodesk’s Eric Wright to NNTP users:

    “As an active NNTP user, we wanted to reach out to you directly. We recognize this will change your experience participating in the forums and want to help you transition to the new web interface. Improvements include a simpler, more intuitive interface to post & reply, bookmarking and e-mail notification features to track favorite posts, and more powerful search tools and filtering. While not a substitute for the NNTP experience, the streamlined capabilities of our enhanced RSS feeds can also provide an alternative offline forum reading experience.”

    As you can see, we are significantly investing to improve the platform behind the web-based experince to address many of the shortfalls reported by users over the last few years. Rich text … Full post

    Does Autodesk discuss future plans?

    According to Shaan, Autodesk does not discuss its future plans. Or does it? In a comment, Ralph reckoned it does. Putting aside technology previews and various NDA-bound circumstances (e.g. Beta testing), can you think of cases where Autodesk has revealed what it intends to do in future? Here are a few off the top of my head:

    • I’ve been to AU sessions dating back to 1995 that pretty much give away the contents of the next release of AutoCAD, using a vague cover-my-butt session title and a disclaimer at the start of the session. I understand that these days, attendees need to sign an NDA before entering such sessions.
    • Last year in San Francisco, an international blogger audience was given all sorts of information about Autodesk’s future directions (preceded by a similar disclaimer), with no NDA and nothing off the record. I assume something similar happened at this … Full post

    Do you think Migration sucks?

    I do. If you’ve added a couple of toolbars and changed a few settings, it’s probably fine for you. But I think it’s been effectively broken for significantly customised setups ever since Autodesk “improved” it by introducing the CUI mechanism in AutoCAD 2006. It’s undocumented and whenever I’ve tried it, unreliable. I ran some polls on it a couple of years ago which had few responses. What do you think now?

    If you’re unhappy with migration, don’t just vent here. Autodesk now wants to hear from you. Here’s the announcement:

    Dear AutoCAD User!

    AutoCAD Product Design & Usability Team is looking for participants for the study.

    Topic: focus on Migration process, Migration tool and results of migration.

    Our Goal

    To gain the most complete understanding about problems and requests AutoCAD users may have while migrating their settings and customization from a previous release of AutoCAD.

    Who Should Participate?

    We … 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