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 that are going to have a lasting impact on Subscription and how people look at it. Next year, we plan to improve it yet more, and so on. I don’t see any end in sight. It’s a competitive world out there and the only way you survive is by continuing to improve and grow and add value, otherwise you get replaced, and nobody’s immune to that. No company, no market.
SJ: You said that there was a 150% increase in Advantage Pack downloads. What was increasing over what?
CC: Prior to Advantage Pack, we had the Extensions program. If you took all the Extensions for the various products for the prior year, the last year we had Extensions (2008), and you compare that to the number of downloads of the Advantage Pack, it’s a 150% increase of Advantage Pack downloads over Extensions.
SJ: But there had been no Extensions for AutoCAD since the very early years, right?
CC: No, there were Extensions for AutoCAD. For example, there was an AutoCAD Extension 2 years ago for PDF writing. This year, I don’t want to give the cat away, but you’re going to see some very interesting technology that is being made exclusively available to subscribers for no additional charge, that I think they will find quite interesting.
SJ: I was scratching my head to think of Extensions; after the initial burst when they first came out there was practically nothing. There was a trickle of them that came through for the various verticals, but I’m struggling to think of AutoCAD ones between, say, 2002 and 2007.
CC: I think you’re highlighting a potential example of a challenge that we had with the old Extensions program in that it was optional for product line managers to participate or not. Today, that’s not the case and that includes AutoCAD. They do participate in the Advantage Pack program and will continue to do so, along with Revit, Inventor and 20-odd other products that are our biggest sellers.
SJ: So that’s a permanent fixture as far as you’re concerned? The Advantage Packs aren’t going to disappear?
CC: Not unless we can come up with something better.
SJ: So there are no other nasties you have planned for customers? You’re not going to, for example, change the EULA so that Subscription is going to have to be paid otherwise your licenses don’t work any more?
CC: No, at this stage we don’t see any change to the perpetual license model if that’s what you’re referring to. We have a hybrid model, which is different from some industries. Some industries are all perpetual, some industries are all term-based licensing, we are still perpetual, plus Subscription or maintenance. I don’t see that changing. It’s hard to predict 50 years into the future, but we have no plans for that.