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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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, TechCrunch interview So let’s say you’re an AutoCAD user. A successful Cloud push by Autodesk will mean that you and very large numbers of people just like you be using AutoCAD or an equivalent Autodesk product on the Cloud by 2014 or 2015. If that doesn’t happen for you and all the other users of Autodesk products, then that’s failure by definition. Autodesk will have failed to meet its own publicly stated goal, and that’s exactly what I’m expecting to happen. While it might look to a Cloudophile that I’m swimming against the tide of inevitability, I’m not alone here. Let’s examine what this blog’s poll respondents think about the chances of them using CAD in the Cloud: (Snapshot taken a couple of weeks ago; more votes but no percentage change since then). The poll has been running for nearly a year and attracted a sizeable number of votes. More than half of the…

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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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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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It’s not easy being green (and believed)

I know that some of you out there (unlike me) are pretty cynical about anything that Autodesk says on any subject. So when Autodesk makes a big thing about being environmentally responsible, such as its new Autodesk Sustainable Design Center site, it would be tempting to say “Yeah, right” and assume it’s just more spin to ignore. That would be wrong. Yes, Autodesk is using its green credentials as a marketing tool. No, that doesn’t mean it’s all bovine excrement. Autodesk is genuine about this stuff. It’s being driven from the top, and it’s being driven hard. How do I know? In addition to Autodesk backing up its assertions with a reasonable level of detail and independent scrutiny, I have a little first-hand knowledge. When I was attending the AutoCAD 2010 launch bloggers’ event last year, I was able to chat casually with quite a few non-marketing people. During those conversations, Autodesk’s move towards green issues was mentioned by more than one person, and in unscripted ways. It was clear to me that Carl Bass was serious about this and was strongly pushing a green culture within the company. Disclosure: when attending the AutoCAD 2010 launch in February 2009, Autodesk provided transport, accommodation and some meals. Yes, I am fully aware of the irony of learning about Autodesk’s green culture only because it flew me half way round the world and back again.

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Carl Bass on TV

Autodesk big cheese Carl Bass gets a friendly interview on NBC’s Press:Here (amusing name, “press colon here”). It’s kind of funny seeing CAD described by non-CAD people (the presenters, not Carl). Among other things, he discusses being fired by Carol Bartz, Autodesk’s role in Avatar, the benefits of piracy, iPhones, 3D printing, open source and Autodesk being green. I’ve embedded the two Bassy bits here for convenience; these embeds will display ads that are not under my control. Edit: I’ve removed the embedded clips as they were slowing down this whole site for some users and even disabling some features. If you want to view the interview, please go to Press:Here and look at Episode 46 Autodesk Part 1 and Episode 46 Autodesk Part 2.

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Ways in which the crash could be good for Autodesk

No, I don’t mean the sort of crash where AutoCAD stops working. The current financial crisis, I mean. I must preface these comments with a disclaimer. I have no qualifications in finance and make no claim of financial expertise. These are purely a layman’s thoughts. Don’t buy or sell stock based on what I have to say here. Toss a coin instead. So, what on earth am I thinking? I’m thinking that although Autodesk (along with most other companies) will undoubtedly suffer greatly from the coming economic conditions, it’s not all dark cloud. Here are some potential silver linings. Autodesk is cashed up. If its competitors aren’t all carrying enough fat to survive the lean times, Autodesk could come out of the post-crash period with greater market share than before. Of course, this is contingent on Autodesk having products, customer service and a customer-friendly outlook that are attractive enough to win over any orphans. Some serious reversal of neglect in these areas will be needed, which involves spending more, not less. So it really is a very good thing that Autodesk has large wads of your money lying around for use in times like this. Companies with useful technology might become available cheaply. Some smart acquisitions could give Autodesk products some advantages over the competition. (Edit – Between writing this post and publishing it, I see Autodesk has just done exactly that with Softimage). Autodesk can buy its own shares back while they are cheap. If it needs cash in a few years, it can sell them again at what will undoubtedly be much higher prices. I don’t really care whether Autodesk does any of the above, but I do care about the next one. Autodesk has been living in a Soviet Russia-style fool’s paradise for years with its yearly…

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I like Bill Gates a little more now

I recently enjoyed reading what appears to be a genuine and not at all atypical internal Microsoft email from Bill Gates. I always enjoy seeing an honest opinion expressed in a way that cuts through the glossy corporate PR image, and this one certainly does that. Actually, it reminds me of the sort of thing I write in MyFeedback when evaluating pre-release versions of AutoCAD. It’s honest, it’s negative or even cutting where it needs to be, it represents a real user’s viewpoint, and most of all, it’s useful. I don’t think this sort of exposure does any harm at all to a company. It’s unlikely to change anybody’s opinion. Microsoft haters will still hate Microsoft, fanboys will still be fanboys. People like me who sit in the middle somewhere are likely to admire the honest self-evaluation shown here. Here’s the Big Cheese looking at things like a user. Great! I’m sure the spin merchants wince when something like this makes it into public view, but that can only be a good thing, right? I’d like to think Carl Bass fires off this sort of email within Autodesk from time to time. If such a thing went public, would it hurt Autodesk? Absolutely not. Autodesk haters will still hate, fanboys will still, er, fan, but there will be no lasting measurable effect on Autodesk. I bet a lot of real world users would like Carl Bass a little more, though. Frustrated users would probably like him a lot more.

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