Autodesk confirms its own unconscionable conduct

It took several attempts over a period of months and was like pulling teeth, but Autodesk has now confirmed that it is deliberately withholding bug fixes from some of its customers.

Autodesk has taken customers’ money and in return has provided defective software (OK, that happens). It has fixed some of those defects (that happens too, sometimes). But it’s limiting distribution of those fixes to those prepared to pay Autodesk further (that has never happened before).

Just let that sink in. Autodesk broke stuff you paid for, could easily fix it, but won’t do so unless you pay more. If you thought ransomware only came from Russia, think again.

Here’s how the scam works.

Let’s say customer Fred paid thousands of dollars for his perpetual license of AutoBLOB and paid thousands more for upgrades and maintenance over several decades. Due to Autodesk no longer making significant improvements to AutoBLOB, he finally gave up hope and decided to drop off maintenance. Understandable, particularly as Autodesk has announced maintenance prices are getting jacked up.

Never mind. Thanks to his perpetual license, Fred can keep right on using AutoBLOB! Aren’t perpetual licenses just the best thing?

Let’s say Fred made the decision after discovering AutoBLOB 2017 was slower than, and really not significantly better than, AutoBLOB 2016, 2015 or even 2010. Fred’s maintenance period carried him through to beyond the release of AutoBLOB 2018, which he intended using for a few years until he transitioned to an alternative product. (Or until Autodesk Becomes Great Again, but Fred doesn’t consider that likely).

Meantime, Fred discovers that there’s a new bug in AutoBLOB 2018 that makes it useless for his needs. It’s not a crash, drawing corruption or security issue, but it is something that makes it difficult of impossible for him to produce the required output. Because he installed AutoBLOB 2018 before his maintenance expired, Autodesk won’t allow him to use 2017 or any earlier version.

Meanwhile, Autodesk has, miracles of miracles, developed a fix for that nasty bug. All Fred has to do is download and install the hotfix or Service Pack, right? Wrong. Because Autodesk has wrapped up the bug fix with AutoBLOB 2018.1, a mid-term update that includes not only bug fixes but also a few new minor feature improvements. Unlike the competition, Autodesk restricts such updates to continuously paying customers. AutoBLOB 2018.1 is therefore only available to subscription and maintenance customers. Fred’s bug has been “deemed non-critical” by Autodesk and therefore the fix won’t be distributed to him.

Fred is screwed by a combination of Autodesk’s worst aspects: chronic failure to improve the product, price-gouging business practices, incompetence in development and testing, and unreasonably restrictive licensing terms. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s then screwed again by one final, nasty, vindictive, petty piece of bastardry by a company desperate to strong-arm its reluctant customers into subscription slavery.

This is not OK.

This is no way to treat customers. It’s unethical. It’s unconscionable. It’s immoral. It’s disgusting. It’s evil.

In the EU at least, it could well be illegal. I certainly hope so; Autodesk being fined a few hundred million Euros might discourage other companies from following suit.

Although it’s tempting to think of Autodesk as a single edifice, it’s important to remember that it’s made up of many individuals. Many of them are great people who would never dream of stooping this low and who are probably quietly embarrassed to be associated with a company that does so. Those people have my sympathy and should stop reading now.

But if you’re that person at Autodesk who thought up this idea? Or one of those who thought it would be OK to do this? Or just sat silently during the meetings where this was discussed and didn’t pipe up, “This is just WRONG”? I have a message for you.

You’re an asshole.

30 Comments

  1. MilesAlex

    In the Uk if a item/purchase is not ‘Fit for purpose’ you are entitled to a full refund. If the provider is not willing to refund then they can get into a lot of legal trouble.

  2. Steve,
    not trying to defend Autodesk, but you’re a bit unfair here. Cool down 😉

    As the former BugMeister you know best that all software has bugs. And many bugs aren’t fixed in time but are carried over from one release to another. I’m sure your lists include bugs found in R10 which have not been fixed in R11 or R12. So people had to BUY the R14 update to finally get a fix. So they had to spend extra money to get a bug fixed which was in software they had paid for looong time ago. Would you have expected a service pack for R10 back then?

    And I don’t think your statement about EU laws is correct.

    Kind regards
    Dietmar

    1. Steve Johnson

      Good to hear from you, Dietmar. The situation you describe is quite different.

      We’re not talking about Autodesk having to bear an unreasonable burden in developing fixes for old releases. We’re talking about Autodesk having already developed fixes and deliberately standing in the way of customers obtaining those fixes. Quite different.

      But if we’re harking back to the old R13 days, I’m sure you can remember Autodesk issuing many fixes for that release without any requirement for payment. Indeed, the R13c4 update included not only a host of bug fixes but also more new functionality than we get in the average annual release these days. That was shipped on CD to every registered customer, free of charge.

      The fact that I’m harking back to the good old days of Release 13(!) should tell you how much Autodesk’s attitude to customer service has regressed.

  3. CAD Bystander

    Far be it from me to get in the way of a good rant :), but here are a few counterpoints for consideration:

    1. If Autodesk doesn’t determine what is critical or non-critical, who does ? The end user ? Now consider a million end users asking for, nay – demanding, fixes for their favorite “critical” bug. You’re expecting Autodesk to put engineers to work on a million bugs for free ?

    [This is the same thing indy developers of app store apps complain about – Apple/Google have given rise to this expectation that apps should a fixed, small cost and updated & fixed for free forever].

    2. You cite Bricscad as competitors who behave a different way. I present other at-par competitors who behave like Autodesk and have done so for a long time: SolidWorks & PTC. IIRC, SolidWorks has been requiring active maintenance for service packs at least as far back as 2006 and was enforced in the software since 2010.

    The SolidWorks user base went through the same sort of angst the Autodesk user base is going through now (see
    https://www.solidsmack.com/cad-design-news/solidworks-to-customers-you-are-not-entitled-to-service-packs-please-rt/ and
    https://www.solidsmack.com/cad/solidworks-subscription-service-much-to-be-desired/), but with the benefit of hindsight, it separates the wheat from the chaff, as it were. Customers who see value in maintenance double down on it, those who don’t – drop off.

    3. In your example, you say Fred installed AutoBLOB 2018 in the same breath as saying 2017 was not significantly better than 2016, 2015 or even 2010. In other words, 2018 is not much better either. Then why did Fred move to 2018 ? Why not stay on 2017 if he’s happy with it and drop maintenance. If he did move to 2018, he must have seen the value in 2018 to be worth the move – in that case, he should stay on maintenance.

    4. Even if Fred moved to 2018 and ran into a problem, he should be able to roll back to 2017 (he was entitled to 2017 when his maintenance was active). SolidWorks allows rolling back to the last version a customer was entitled to when their subs ran out. I’m assuming Autodesk does the same – if they don’t, they definitely need to fix this part.
    Yes, Fred loses some time if he upgraded his files to 2018 version in needing to rollback from backups or recreate them, but that’s the risk he carries when he chose to drop maintenance.

    Bottom line, our best vote is our wallets – there is nothing “unconscionable” about a company doing this or making a change to their business model. If you don’t like it, don’t do business with them.

    1. Steve Johnson

      I feel you may be misunderstanding several points.

      1. I’m not expecting Autodesk to fix every single bug, I’m just expecting the fixes they have done to be made available to all customers.

      2. Sounds like there are assholes at Solidworks et al, too. Doesn’t make Autodesk any less assholey.

      3. Fred could have moved to 2018 because Autodesk changed the file format, or he could have just installed it to try it out. Doesn’t matter. Once he’s authorized it, he’s trapped. Which leads to…

      4. No, that’s not how it works with Autodesk licensing. Autodesk requires Fred to use 2018, and only 2018, for ever. He’s not allowed to use 2017 from the moment the maintenance contract expires.

      I completely agree about voting with our wallets.

    2. Specific to #3. File format change, could be mandated by his clients, partners, etc. Even if there is no file format change, in the case of Civil 3D for example, you have to use the same version as other on a given project.

  4. Griffin

    The effective policy is that Autodesk will fix whatever it wants, whenever it wants and however it wants as long as it is in Autodesk’s best interests to do so. If “important security issues” can be used as leverage against customers to force upgrades (hello DWG 2018) then, as this 2018.1 patch proves, any little thing will be. Start looking for extremely low importance issues to be getting much more attention in the future.
    To be fair to any developers in those meetings it should be clear that sales and marketing have been running the show for a long time. Given the choice between calling out Autodesk’s terrible predatory practices and going against the multi billion dollar entities that hold most of Autodesk’s stock the best course is to keep your head down and the CV updated. Once they start missing growth projections they’ll fire developers and increase sales and marketing staff.

  5. James M

    I keep thinking people will just get the updates from others and install them. If adesk is issuing authorizations based on update installed or not status, they better tell us. They are really dong their best to make the competition look attractive, so maybe you could say they are actually being as nice as they ever have 🙂

  6. James M

    Doing, and dong their best….ha ha.
    BTW, I still wish your front page had little summary looking sections, rather than the squares. Just feedback in case you are deciding if the change is worth it.

  7. The question is, does Autodesk still release critical updates for all customers now? Or no updates at all for now subscription customers?
    If the product is defective when it’s released, they have to fix it. They shouldn’t released unstable products anyway.

    1. Steve Johnson

      In theory, Autodesk releases critical and security updates for all customers. However, Autodesk gets to define “critical”. There are already people complaining of broken important functionality for which there is a fix, but Autodesk isn’t allowing them to have it. Fred’s scenario has already happened.

      1. I read the CAD Bystander comment about Solidworks. I’m familiar with Dassault Systemes CATIA. He’s right; DS only release updates for ALC (maintenance customers). However, the DS licensing allows the users to use any older release from the latest version they have. As long as they are the same version. It means if he has CATIA V5R21, he can use V5R20 or older. SW probably has a slightly different policy, because they are like a different company.
        I believe that Bentley also has a similar licensing policy.
        I don’t understand why we can’t use older version anyway. What are the benefits of using a previous version other than it’s more stable and maybe 3rd party compatibility? It’s not something that we should pay more money.

          1. >>> “But Autodesk doesn’t care what its customers think.”

            I know what you meant Steve, but let’s be careful not to extend this statement to (many of) the individuals employed by Autodesk who I believe truly do care. They are just handcuffed for lack of a better statement. I’m sure many, if not all of them agree with the 2010 statement from Buzz Kross. It’s probably difficult for them to have to back all of this change.

          2. Steve Johnson

            Agreed, I’m very aware that there are many great people within Autodesk who really do care what their customers think. In the post above I make a point of excluding such people from my criticism.

            When I say “Autodesk doesn’t care what its customers think”, I mean the high-ups, the decision makers who determine the actions of the Autodesk monolith. To them, customers are “noise” to be manipulated, deceived and milked.

      1. Steve Johnson

        Autodesk may still release hotfixes and SPs for pre-current supported products, there’s no announced policy change on that. What’s changed is that SPs are now Updates and restricted to customers who have signed up for continuous payment.

    1. Josef Wienerroither

      The issues is very apparent with the 3ds Max 2017.0.2 vs 3ds Max 2017.2 releases. Essentially ALL bugs are considered non-critical and only exist in 3ds Max 2017.2 ( which is accessable on valid rental or perpetual contract ).
      For example this bug is considered non-crtitical and thus the fix not available for people NOT on active rental or perpetual contract:

      “MAXX-36514 Core 3dsmax.ini no longer resets when starting and closing multple instances of 3ds Max, making it easier to run multple instances of the so?ware simultaneously.”

      Essentially this bug causes all of your 3ds Max settings to be cleared out and 3ds Max fails to launch most propably after that. Tagging this one as “non-critical” is plainly a bad joke

      Or this one, which wipes your UV data ( meaning loss of data )
      MAXX-36101, MAXX-29892: Modeling-UVW UVs no longer reset when trying to modify an existing peel.

      Another “non-critical” bug withhold by Autodesk from customers who paid a lot of money to buy their software. I suspect that piracy will run rampage even more now after such active Autodesk hostility towards their customers. Considering that getting the withheld update from somewhere else and installing it is already piracy

  8. Dave Ault

    No Autodesk does not care. Yes they are unethical and yes they are mercenary assholes who want to own you and not sell to you. Speak with your wallets. I have renewed with Solid Edge until SE ST10 and the price per year is the same as it was in SE ST1. Screw Inventor and Autodesk. Solid Edge no BS policy says rent or permanent seat you choose. Getting to the point where I don’t care what they do as I have already moved on. I do wonder seriously about those who stay with Autodesk knowing what is to come. They are going to conspire against all who do not go subs and punish you for your past loyalty.

  9. Andy Engelkemier

    How has no one mentioned Adobe in any of these comparisons? Well here it is. Adobe is doing something Fairly similar, only they went all in on their model. Adobe just said, “F it, just make everyone move to a rental only model, and completely abandon the old software.” They did it, and they charge a ridiculous amount for it. Shoot, they charge you an extra $20 a month JUST for being managed by your company. They claim there are other things you get, like training, but that’s total BS. And any sort of support is a complete joke. Their support is about as good as Autodesk’s which ends up taking two weeks then finally someone says, “I talked to the developer who worked on this, and it won’t work.” Oh, thanks.

    Solid Works is a pretty good example, but is also a good example of a shit company. We use their software, and we are a consultant. It’s not backward compatible at all, and since they don’t make you go to maintenance, we have to have 4-5 versions of their software installed. A client is maybe using 2015, so we do much of the project there. Wait, no, they were wrong, it’s 2014, so now we have to start completely over. At least Adobe lets you save down (to an extent).

    Adobe pissed off pretty much Everyone, but they have us by the, you know whats. There’s not much we can do. You can get alternates to a couple of their software, but not the whole suite. Illustrator alternatives are a joke, and the after effects? The only developer who’s probably making them sweat much is the Foundry, which is also probably making Autodesk sweat a little. But they aren’t cheap by any means.

    The thing that sucks for all of us is compatibility. If you’re working on a project, there’s a huge cost in switching softwares. I love it when someone tells me their software will save a ton of money, like Autodesk Fusion (which is still basically in beta). Yeah, it’s Way cheaper than Solid works. But I have to deliver files, for one, to the client, and to get all the users efficient in the software would take quite a bit of time. If we quote a 1 month job, and it takes 2 because we’re learning software? Well, we probably just lost a client, or we lost 1 month of billable work completely. So the savings of a few hundred dollars just cost me tens of thousands.

    Because the software is incompatible with each other, whichever ones we are using, they’ve got pretty complete control of us. We just have to keep paying, and playing. I would Love to hear alternatives, but the only ones that can do anything about it are the individual users, but that’s going to hardly make a dent in anyone’s wallet. If someone has ideas of how to get these companies to work a bit more ethically then chime in. Switching software is just Too costly.

  10. Tobias Richter

    My problem is rather then the bug fixes is that Autodesk does not provide a renderer anymore since Mentalray is gone. Effectively rendering the product useless, as you can´t render anymore (I don´t consider the Maya internal renderer anything that could be used) – unless you buy extra licenses for Arnold. So they effectively scaled down the package by the most important aspect, but they took my money anyways.

    1. Josef Wienerroither

      Are you by any means THE Tobias Richter whose name is known from back in the Amiga’s glory days of rendering ?
      If yes, then kudos to you for sticking to a specific topic so long ;-)- I’m one of those dinsosaurs too, hence your name triggered some good old memories

    2. Griffin

      The funny thing with MR is that Nvidia actually thinks that most people used it for some reason other than it was free with Max and Maya. It could be worse though, they could have replaced the Maya renderer with the Max ART renderer.

  11. Leaving Autodesk for the good

    Fuck you Autodesk that’s why I canceled my maintenence… and now I do not get any more bug fixes for you crappy 3ds max 2018? Fuck you again!

  12. Autodesk Anti-Trustee

    I guess Fred will be really up sh!t creek after this latest anti-trust announcement from our beloved Autodesk monopoly. Aside from the ‘brilliant’ math they are doing to force us to the rental model, I now fully expect them to flat out prevent the use of already paid for perpetual licenses in the coming years. #idiocracy

    http://bit.ly/2wYelpt

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