Apple – Autodesk history revisited

Apple – Autodesk history revisited

In a post on WorldCAD Access, Jay Vleeschhouwer makes some reasonable observations. However, the timing of the 1990s Autodesk / Mac history looks all wrong to me. Jay quotes himself from a 2008 note:

…until about the mid-1990s Autodesk did have a reasonable presence on the Mac … commitment waned when Apple’s fortunes faded a dozen or so years ago

The last of the original Mac AutoCADs was Release 12, a 1992 product. Apple market share continued to increase after that; indeed, 1994 was a bumper year. However, Autodesk’s commitment had already vanished by then, and its 1994 product, Release 13, had no Mac version.

Apple’s fortunes did indeed fall away “a dozen or so years” before Jay’s note, largely as a result of the success of Windows 95. But this decline could not have been the cause of Autodesk’s lack of commitment to Apple; by that time the parting of the ways was already well in the past.

What did cause Autodesk’s commitment to vanish? According to what Adeskers told me at the time, Apple did.

Because of the relatively tiny Mac market share, Autodesk relied on Apple to effectively subsidise the Mac AutoCAD development work by providing significant development resources. Apple, which in the early 90s was in a state of internal turmoil, decided to cut back on those resources and expected Autodesk to go it alone with Mac development. Instead, Autodesk killed it off as an unprofitable distraction.

Although at the time I was critical of Autodesk orphaning its recently-acquired Mac customers, it was almost certainly the right thing to do from a business perspective. It would be interesting to know how much Apple is subsidising Autodesk’s current Mac development effort, but I guess we will never know.


  1. ralphg

    It is my understanding that Apple subsidizes Siemens PLM Systems to keep NX updated for OS X, because Apple uses NX for designing its computers.

    As for Autodesk’s support for the Mac version of AutoCAD until the mid-1990s, I think Jay is technically correct, since Autodesk provided technical support to those AutoCAD users until then — just no more updates of AutoCAD for Mac, until now.

    It’s been more than 3 releases, so I guess those pioneering users can’t get the “simplified” 50% upgrade discount.

  2. “It is my understanding that Apple subsidizes Siemens PLM Systems to keep NX updated for OS X, because Apple uses NX for designing its computers.”

    I’m not sure how true that is. Apple uses a version of NX that is several versions old. If they are helping to keep it updated, they aren’t implementing those updates within their own company.

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