Autodesk customers are revolting

I don’t know what kind of reception Autodesk thought it was going to get to its less-than-fully-frank announcement that it was hiking up the price of maintenance to push perpetual license owners onto subscription (rental).

I suppose some negative feedback was expected, but I’m not sure the marketing mavens would have anticipated such a degree of near-universal outright hostility. I suspect they may have overestimated their ability to pull the wool over the eyes of a community that is generally technically smart and, thanks to Autodesk’s history in recent years, somewhat lacking in trust.

The Autodesk Community forum moderators are busily vacuuming up threads from all over the place and moving them to the near-invisible new Moving to Subscription forum, which in due course will no doubt be made read-only and merged into semi-oblivion, just like the last one.

Despite the obscurity and the futility of it all, people are still finding that forum and posting on it (over 300 in a few days) and they’re not happy. Many other complaints can be found on CG Press, CG Talk, NewTek, with countless smaller moan sessions popping up all over the place, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, 3DVF (French), C4D Cafe, etc.

Then there’s the most powerful but least easily measured marketing communication medium of all; word of mouth. Out in the real world, Autodesk’s name is mud. Talk of abandoning the maintenance/subscription revenue stream altogether is common, as is switching from Autodesk to competitors’ products.

Why get so worked up? I mean, it’s only 5%, right? At first glance. Actually, the price will rise 38.6% by 2019, with worse undoubtedly to come. But for many complainers, while the excess cost and the nonsense used to justify it are condemned, those are not the main issues.

What is the main issue? Loyal Autodesk customers, people who have paid good money for perpetual licenses and kept them current with ongoing maintenance for many years, really don’t want to give them up. They resent being strong-armed into doing so and feel betrayed and deceived by Autodesk. “You can pry my perpetual license from my cold dead fingers. Screw you, Autodesk!” is a paraphrase of the views expressed. Generally it’s more polite than that, but sometimes less.

It has been quite educational for me to read the comments from customers of other Autodesk products who have experienced the same kind of product neglect familiar to AutoCAD customers. They feel they’ve been taken for a ride by a company that is happy to take their money but not that interested in spending it on improving the product they use. Attempting to gouge such customers to the extreme that has just been announced was never going to end well.

Given that Autodesk thinks very highly of its own image and spends literally a billion dollars every year on marketing and sales, I wonder how much this publicity is worth as a negative asset? Enough for me to retire on in ex-CEO-style comfort, I bet. As for the free marketing that Autodesk is providing for its competitors, I’m sure that is very much appreciated.

None of this will cause a change of path at Autodesk, of course. A few thousand dissatisfied customers with pitchforks and torches will not be considered noteworthy at board level. They might not even notice, and if they do they certainly won’t care.

Autodesk only listens to our dollars. We have them, Autodesk wants them. Only voting with our wallets will get the message across. Do it.

3 Comments

  1. Perhaps the time is nigh for AutoCAD users to finally embrace a freeze on the update cycle and standardize on the 2013 format. I’m pretty certain the next format change will have extremely unfavorable consequences.

    Several years of no maintenance/subscription income may be persuasive.

    1. Brian Todd Mitchell

      I have had this opinion for years and with the reduction of valuable “upgrades” in each release of Revit as well I have had a legal question for sometime. Here goes, If Autodesk “does not provide support for software that is more than three (3) release old” (ie. They no longer support 2015 since 2018 has just been released), does this mean that it would be difficult for them to enforce their copyright? I know it was very easy to crack 2015 Autodesk products (illegally in my mind until last month). I have been paying for my licence since 1997 and been anxiously Architectural Designer (Architectural Desktop) to be made functional and actually switched to Revit in an upgrade push in 2005 (after being told for two (2) years by the Southeast Autodesk Regional manager that there were no longer going to upgrade AutoCAD (I even bet him a steak at Morton’s that would never happen, never got the steak). But I am far more disappointed by all the repairs that were begged for by many that were never provided. More importantly upgraded and finding that the have actually “broken” things instead. (ie. material editor, text, …)

      Sorry this got going that way, don’t have time to rant. What I am really interested in knowing is, can they protect software the don’t support? Any information (preferably legal advice) would be greatly appreciated.

      1. It’s actually 4 releases (the current one and 3 back) that are supported (e.g. 2018 to 2015 inclusive), or even now 5 (current + 4) with multi-user (network) subscription collections.

        Note there’s a difference between “does not provide support” and “will refuse to activate”. I don’t know the oldest release that Autodesk will still activate. In theory, it should be possible to activate all previous releases, even if it requires a manual process. In any case, it will be a lot earlier than 2015.

        Let’s say you had an AutoCAD 2002 lying around that had never been upgraded, and you managed to install it and make it run, but it refused to activate automatically and Autodesk refused to provide the codes to activate it. Would you be entitled to use a cracked AutoCAD 2002 instead?

        I can’t give you a legal answer to that, and in any case the answer undoubtedly varies by jurisdiction. I couldn’t imagine the EU siding with Autodesk in such a case, for example. Maybe the courts would determine that Autodesk needs to give you your money back instead?

        Is it ethical? That’s in the eye of the observer. Many would see no problem with working around Autodesk’s technical failure so you could simply use the product you have paid them to use in perpetuity.

        Is it sensible? Probably not. All sorts of risks involved, and given the availability of cheap and even free alternatives, it’s unlikely to be worth it.

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