Clearing up the Autodesk rental / subscription / maintenance naming confusion

Clearing up the Autodesk rental / subscription / maintenance naming confusion

Some people are confused by Autodesk’s naming terminology about subscription, maintenance and rental. This is entirely Autodesk’s fault, because it took a name (Subscription) which had a long-established meaning (including perpetual licensing) and used that name (but without its initial capital) to mean the opposite (no perpetual licensing).

There was a brief period, only last year, where the S word meant both things at the same time and differentiation between the opposing meanings was achieved using different prefixes.

Confused yet?

I’m not sure whether it’s kinder to view Autodesk doing something so obviously confusing as merely incompetence in communication or a deliberate attempt to confuse and deceive customers and/or the share market. Or maybe it was an inspired choice and I’m too obtuse to comprehend its genius. Choose whichever explanation you prefer.

In an attempt to clear things up, but at the risk of confusing matters further, Autodesk’s naming history goes something like this. The years shown below are approximate and some of them varied for different products and markets.

Name for perpetual license + pre-paid upgrades Name for rental
1997-2001 VIP Subscription Program
2001-2003 VIP Subscription Program Rental
2004-2012 Subscription
2013 Subscription Rental
2014-2015 Subscription
2016 (briefly) maintenance subscription desktop subscription
2016- maintenance subscription

The current rental regime, which has run under two names to date but is currently called ‘subscription’, is the third attempt Autodesk has had at rental. The first two attempts failed in the marketplace because the vast majority of customers prefer perpetual licenses.


  1. You think that’s bad, Autodesk’s use of the term BIM is so sloppy they don’t even know what they are saying anymore. The funny thing is they named Civil3D too early, and too accurately. They would have far preferred a name like CivilBIM to try to make customers think that product is BIM, but they are kind of lucky they missed it as we would have had to point out even more to people that its not a BIM type environment where you model real items in a useful way for the industry involved. C3D shares data weirdly and badly, is fragile, did pipelines/utilities wrong, and runs slow the more you use its features. It needs like 2 more major iterations as the ideas are good but implementation bad. Autodesk still calls civil3d BIM though, as I predicted way back when the BIM term got popular with revit. Its so not BIM though.

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