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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Autodesk edges towards taking money for Cloud services

In an email to Subscription customers, Autodesk made several announcements about its Autodesk 360 Cloud services. Subscription users now get 25 GB per seat of Cloud storage, up from 3 GB. Non-Subscription users who create an Autodesk 360 account get 3 GB. The intent here, as with the trebling of upgrade costs, is to get you hooked on Subscription so you become a permanent revenue stream. More services are now available, apparently, but the list of services looks about the same to me. The table that lists which services are available for which products can be found here. If you’re an AutoCAD user, the only service available is Autodesk 360 Rendering. The services are now metered. You get a certain number of “cloud units”, and these are eaten up as you use the services. A standard AutoCAD user (with Subscription) gets 100 units. Each render costs you 5 units, so effectively you get 20 on-line renders per seat. That’s enough for a taster, but if Cloud rendering is as brilliant as Autodesk says it is, you’ll soon use that allocation up. The metering doesn’t mean anything – yet. If you use up all your units, it doesn’t matter. You can go on using more of them as long as you’re on Subscription. This free lunch will end as soon as Autodesk says so, or as soon as it puts a mechanism in place to charge you for units. No news yet on when that might be, but as parting you from your money is obviously the whole point of the exercise, I can’t imagine it will be too far in the future. Autodesk reserves the right to change all of this without notice, and to terminate access to Autodesk 360 services at any time and for any reason.

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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 which things can be chased down. With that in mind, this post is an analysis of the response Callan Carpenter gave to the four specific questions I raised, and three points of dispute raised by others and passed on by me for a response. I have marked each response (or non-response) out of 10. Questions Please clarify in as much detail as possible exactly how you arrive at your figures. Answer: none given. 0/10 A percentage is derived by dividing one number by another; what exactly are you dividing by what to come up with 1.5%? Answer: none given. 0/10 Please explain why your statements appear to contradict Autodesk’s own published figures. Answer: Callan explained that he did not intend to suggest what it seemed he was implying, but didn’t clearly explain exactly what it was that he actually was suggesting. 5/10 How large is Autodesk’s total installed base? Answer:…

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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. Questions: Please clarify in as much detail as possible exactly how you arrive at your figures. A percentage is derived by dividing one number by another; what exactly are you dividing by what to come up with 1.5%? Please explain why your statements appear to contradict Autodesk’s own published figures. How large is Autodesk’s total installed base? Other points of dispute have been raised by various commenters, which I have paraphrased here. I invite your response. Because Autodesk made Subscription cheaper than upgrading, it is no surprise that upgrading became less popular. This doesn’t indicate that customers prefer doing business in that way, merely that Autodesk made it the cheapest alternative. If the idea of Subscription is such an attractive proposition, why do you need to sweeten the deal with tools that you don’t allow upgraders to have? Your assertion that the 12-month cycle is driven by the product teams is incorrect. It was chosen for…

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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 and making assumptions about their Subscription status from that. That’s an extremely suspect methodology, as I pointed out: Your numbers don’t really tell us anything about Subscription v. upgrade proportions. All they tell us is that large numbers of people wait a while before installing a new release. We all knew that, surely. However, Deelip’s post did prompt me to point out this: …there is a fair point to be made about people on earlier releases who have hopped off the upgrade train altogether, or at least for a significant number of years. How would they be counted in Callan’s figures? They wouldn’t exist at all, as far as his income percentages are concerned. Owen Wengerd (ManuSoft, CADLock) asked a random sample of his customers and came up with 82% of them as non-Subscription customers. He also noted that he could come up with a 3% non-Subscription figure if he cooked the books by…

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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. I think the valid criticism is that it damages the product. A poll that I ran on my blog asked that question: is the 12-month cycle damaging the product? The answer was a very emphatic yes from the readers of my blog. I know that’s not a scientific survey but it fits in with other viewpoints I’ve seen expressed in various places. CC: The question was, do we intend to continue to do that? SJ: Yes. Once you have effectively have your customers on the Subscription model, so that you’re no longer internally competing with the upgrade model, do you really have to have a 12-month release cycle? CC: Well, I think it’s a very interesting and valid question, do we need to have a 12-month upgrade cycle? I know there are customers who simply cannot absorb technology at that rate. But it’s a bit of a two-edged sword, in…

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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 Extensions program is that it was optional for product line managers to either participate or not. It was optional for product line managers to localise those Extensions in languages other than English. It was optional to make those Extensions incremental install as opposed to requiring a full reinstallation of a product. So last year, we turned a lot of our product development upside down and produced the Advantage Pack with a whole new set of requirements. A product had to be localised, it had to be incremental install, and the top 26 or 27 product lines all had to participate in delivering that value. We saw the impact in the form of a 150% increase in the downloads of that Advantage Pack. That’s an example of trying to improve the value, and you’re going to see some additional fairly significant moves on our part on the Advantage Pack this year…

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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 to make it easier to do business with Autodesk; can it be less expensive? One of the costs of doing business is maintaining a very complex pricing scheme as we have in the past. So while we may not have a customer say, “Gosh, I wish you would simplify your upgrade pricing” explicitly, it is implicit in trying to offer an easier path to buying and less cost in the long run because we’re not maintaining a very complex system that only serves a very small percentage of our customer base. SJ: So there’s a real cost associated with this. Can you put a number on that as a percentage of the cost of the upgrade? Is it 1%? 10%? Is a big amount that customers need to be worried about? CC: You know, I’ve never tried to put it as a percentage of the cost of an upgrade and…

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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 about approximately 1.5% of our revenue that comes from customers upgrading 1 and 2 versions back. And so I think there’s clearly been a natural selection, a natural fallout over time of customers choosing; do I prefer to be on Subscription or do I prefer to pay for an upgrade? If you look at the real impact of upgrade pricing, the real impact is the customers who prefer to upgrade from 1 or 2 versions back, that’s a very very small percentage of our business. For those who are 3 versions back or more, there’s really no change at all. For subscribers, which is the majority of the customer base, there is no change at all either. I just wanted to start by kind of putting that in perspective. I think the other thing we should look at is that the history of the Subscription program is one of actually…

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Filling the holes in Autodesk’s CHM Help stopgap

It was good to see Autodesk react to criticism of AutoCAD 2011’s browser-based Help with an acknowledgement of the problems and an attempt to provide a workaround by making a zip file of CHM files available for download. That’s much better than ignoring people’s concerns, denying the validity of those concerns or shooting the messenger, which has been known to happen in the past. However, there are some holes in the workaround, only some of which can be filled. Under 64-bit Windows 7, the Search pane is blank, as it is in the CHM Help for earlier releases on that platform. This is stated on the download page. Index works well, but Search doesn’t. As Search is one of the worst aspects of the browser-based Help, this is a rather unfortunate. There is no obvious way of making the CHMs provide contextual help. Don’t bother pointing at acad181.chm in the Files tab of Options, it doesn’t work. Edit: See Chris Cowgill’s post on the AUGI forums for a partial workaround. Even without contextual help, no advice is provided for calling the CHMs from within AutoCAD; you are only told that you can set up a shortcut on your desktop and double-click on that when you need it. However, you can set up an alias command in AutoCAD. To do this, edit the acad.pgp file or use the Express Tools Aliasedit command to set up a shell command. The alias name can be whatever you like (e.g. HEL), the command name should simply be the path and filename of the main acad181.chm file. The CHM files are currently available only in English. The set of CHM files is incomplete. See below for more details and what you can do about it. These are the CHM files provided with AutoCAD 2011: acet.chm – Express…

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Autodesk Subscription – it could be worse

I’m still looking for your questions about Autodesk Subscription and upgrade policies and pricing. No matter what you think about that, you have to admit that Autodesk’s current policies are less anti-customer than those inflicted on SolidWorks users. Disallowing bug fixes for non-subscription customers is reprehensible, no matter what kind of spin is put on it. Not only that, it’s clueless. So you’re annoyed at Autodesk for whatever reason and are looking for alternative software from a company that doesn’t mistreat its customers? You know not to even bother looking at SolidWorks, don’t you? Edit: more relevant links and customer comments from Devon Sowell and Matt Lombard’s blogs.

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Downloading AutoCAD 2011

Apparently, AutoCAD 2011 has been available for download for the best part of a day. Here’s my experience so far. As a Subscription customer, I can see a bright new Get Your Upgrade button, and if I click on that I get an AutoCAD 2011 English link to click on. So far so good. If I click on that link, I get only this: Error Message You are currently not authorized to download from this Account. I have contacted my reseller to try to work out what is going on. In the meantime, I’d be interested to know if any of you are having the same problem. What has your download experience been like? Did it work? If so, how long did it take? Any issues with Autodesk download manager or your own? Did you do a Subscription download or the trial version? Did you choose to receive a DVD? Are you located outside North America? Any feedback is welcome.

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Why don’t you use the current release?

While a lot of you are running one of Autodesk’s current-model products, there will be a very large portion of you that are using something older. This post is addressed to the latter group. Even if you’re on Subscription and have the current release available, but have chosen to keep running an older release, this question is still addressed to you. In fact, even if you’re now using the current release but have avoided installing some releases in the past, so at some stage you didn’t use the current release, I’d still be interested to hear your answer to this question. Here’s the question: Why?

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Autodesk Subscription support – how is it?

I’d like to hear your experiences with the support that is part of the Autodesk Subscription package. My own experiences have been mixed, but I’d like to hear from you rather than push any particular barrow. Have you used it? Good, bad, indifferent, all of the above? Is it timely, efficient, knowledgeable, clearly communicated? Please add your comments!

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AutoCAD does a Cheshire Cat

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat gradually disappears until nothing is left but its smile. The AutoCAD packaging has done the same thing over the years until now nothing is left but the 0s and 1s. In Release 13, one box was not enough to keep all the materials, but Autodesk gradually slimmed it down until in recent years your slab of upgrade or Subscription cash gets you nothing but a DVD in a case (with or without a pack of cards). However, you can go cap in hand to Autodesk and ask for a real manual of your choice, which will be shipped to you free of charge. A few days ago, Subscription customers in 37 countries were all automatically opted in to a download-only upgrade mechanism for all Autodesk software, not just AutoCAD. Here are Autodesk’s stated reasons: Convenience—It’s more convenient than installing software from a DVD or CD and is available 24 hours a day. Sustainability—Because there’s no printing, packaging, or shipping, it’s a more sustainable choice. Central control—Software Coordinators can provide users with electronic access to upgrades and manage software permissions centrally. So this has nothing to do with increasing Autodesk’s profit margins, it is for your benefit and to help save the planet; that’s nice to know. However, depending on your circumstances and the available bandwidth at both your end and Autodesk’s, downloading a couple of GB or so for each product (double it if you need both 32 and 64 bit versions) may not be convenient. If you want to receive an actual disc containing the software, you will need to change a Subscription setting. You should have seen an email about this containing a convenient link to a page containing that setting. If you haven’t taken care of this yet, I suggest…

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How will you react to Autodesk’s new upgrade pricing?

As I reported early last year, Autodesk is going to discourage you from paying for upgrades as and when you see fit. It is doing this by charging you 50% of the cost of a full license to upgrade from the previous release. The same 50% cost will apply if you crossgrade [edit: crossgrade from an non-current release, that is] (say if you move from AutoCAD to a vertical). If your product is more than three releases old, you can’t upgrade. This change takes effect from 16 March 2010. There were some discounted upgrade offers to get you signed over early, but these have now expired. If you are thinking of upgrading or crossgrading, I suggest you contact your reseller, get out your calculator and consider doing it in the next few weeks. There is some laughable doublespeak in the Autodesk marketing of this change, such as “streamlining our upgrade pricing based on feedback from customers and resellers,” but I can’t imagine anyone being fooled by such nonsense. It’s obvious that Autodesk is not doing this because you all asked for upgrade prices to be trebled to make a nice predictable percentage, it’s doing this to force upgraders on to Subscription. Once you’re on Subscription, you’re paying a year in advance for an upgrade (bonus cashflow!), and you’re something of a captive market, theoretically providing Autodesk with a more regular source of income. (The financial crisis has knocked something of a dent in that theory, as many companies have chosen not to renew subscriptions for products that were previously used by now-retrenched employees). If you’re already on Subscription, you may be feeling pretty smug right now. Don’t be. Once Autodesk’s user base is effectively converted to the Subscription model, Autodesk will be free to do all sorts of things to…

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Autodesk to more than triple upgrade prices

As reported at Revit3D.com, next March will see a major change to the way Autodesk prices its upgrades. All upgrades will cost 50% of the full retail price rather than the much smaller percentage that is currently charged. If you upgrade yearly, that means the cost of doing so will be about 3.35 times greater than it is now. Clearly, Autodesk doesn’t want you doing that, and would much prefer you to be tied into the Subscription program, and is introducing some subtle encouragement to nudge you in the right direction. Here is the rationale according to an Autodesk spokesperson: I can confirm that after March 16, 2010, a streamlined upgrade pricing model will go into effect–all upgrades, cross-grades, and retroactive Subscription fees up to three releases back will be priced at 50 percent of a full license. We are doing this to better match the needs and buying behaviors of our customers. A significant number of our customers have already moved to Autodesk Subscription. Only a small percentage of customers who do not have Autodesk Subscription purchase upgrades every year. Most of those customers upgrade every three years. We believe that simple, straightforward pricing will help make it easier to do business with us. We also believe the new policy will make it more convenient and cost-effective for customers to keep their Autodesk software up-to-date. So now you know, it’s being done for your own good. Happy?

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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 was the first time we released bonus packs continuously throughout the year to AutoCAD subscription customers, and we had a lot to learn about how to best deliver the bonus packs, and how often to release them. Based on our learnings from this year, our plan for the coming year is to ensure that AutoCAD Architecture (and other AutoCAD vertical product) subscription customers also receive any AutoCAD updates and bonus packs we deliver.

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AutoCAD 2009 Subscription Pack 2 – PDF Enhancements

Subscription customers of plain AutoCAD 2009 can log on to the Subscription Center and download Subscription Pack 2. This pack improves PDF output (long overdue and very welcome) and adds the ability to attach PDF files. That’s welcome too, but is of largely academic interest right now because of a total lack of interoperability. Unless you only ever provide your drawing files to people who also have plain AutoCAD 2009 with Subscription Pack 2, they won’t see the PDF underlay. However, round tripping is supported, so when you get the drawing back the PDF underlay will reappear. Here is a brief summary of the features, taken direct from the download page: PDF Underlays Now you can import PDF files, attaching them as PDF underlays. Once you attach a PDF underlay, you can use a variety of tools to snap to lines and objects, control the display of layers, move, scale, rotate, and clip the PDF underlay. PDF Output Key improvements have been made for publishing PDF files. File sizes have been reduced, making it easier to share designs. TrueType font support has been added, giving you control over precisely how your fonts are displayed. This bonus pack is only available in English for AutoCAD® 2009, although, if desired, it can be installed on localized versions of AutoCAD 2009. If installed on a localized version of AutoCAD 2009, all new and related commands display in English only. As usual, read the readme first, which contains much fuller descriptions of the new features.

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Totally abysmal customer service from Autodesk

I’ve been dealing with Autodesk in various ways for 23 years and have had a variety of experiences as a result; some good, some bad. The provision of the license codes needed to keep AutoCAD running has historically been pretty good. No longer. I’m currently going through the worst Autodesk customer service experience in my career. I’ve been trying for many weeks to obtain a few codes, without success. I’ll spare you the details for the time being to give Autodesk one last chance to come good. For now I’ll just say that a combination of restrictive policies, inflexibility in the administration of those policies and downright incompetence has left Autodesk’s Subscription service looking very poor indeed. It’s a shocking abuse of legitimate customers; something that pirate users don’t have to put up with. Autodesk Asia Pacific Product Registration & Activation Centre, your efforts to date have not been anywhere close to adequate. Get your finger out and start providing some customer service. If you can’t do so, escalate it to someone who can. Now. Before I let on how I really feel. Update: I would just like to clarify that I have no problem with the service provided at a dealer level.

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