The great Autodesk Collections rip-off

The great Autodesk Collections rip-off

Autodesk not only wants to move its customers from perpetual licenses to subscription (rental), it wants to move them from individual products to Industry Collections. Why? Because the rental cost of Collections is higher and more money can be extracted from each customer.

There’s nothing conspiracy-theorist about the above statement, it has been explicitly laid out by now-CEO Andrew Anagnost at an Investor Day, and the cunning plan has been placed on the public record. Have a good read of that document, it’s very revealing. AutoCAD LT users are going to be “encouraged” into full AutoCAD, AutoCAD users are are going to be “encouraged” into AutoCAD-based verticals, and so on, into Collections. Onwards and upwards.

Collections, you may remember, are groups of applications sold together. They’re just like Suites used to be, only bigger and rental-only. They’re expensive, but they contain a lot of products. For example, the AEC Collection rents at $2,690 PA (single-user US price). It contains the following products (individual product US annual rental cost shown in [brackets]):

  • Advance Steel [not stated]
  • AutoCAD [$1,176]
  • AutoCAD Architecture [$1,575]
  • AutoCAD Civil 3D [$2,100]
  • AutoCAD Electrical [$1,575]
  • AutoCAD Map 3D [$1,575]
  • AutoCAD MEP [$1,575]
  • AutoCAD Plant 3D [$1,575]
  • AutoCAD Raster Design [$840]
  • AutoCAD mobile app [free]
  • Cloud storage (25 GB) [free]
  • Dynamo Studio [$300]
  • Fabrication CADmep [$900]
  • FormIt Pro [not stated – Collection only]
  • InfraWorks [$1,575]
  • Insight [not stated – cloud credits]
  • Navisworks Manage [$2,070]
  • ReCap Pro [$300]
  • Autodesk Rendering [not stated – cloud credits]
  • Revit [$2,200]
  • Revit Live [$250]
  • Robot Structural Analysis Professional [not stated – Collection only]
  • 3ds Max [$1,470]
  • Structural Analysis for Revit [not stated – cloud credits]
  • Structural Bridge Design [not stated – Collection only]
  • Vehicle Tracking [not stated – Collection only]

Note that Autodesk doesn’t make it easy to work out the equivalent total cost, but you can see there’s an impressively large number of products listed. For those products where prices are listed, adding together the above comes to $21,056 PA. So $2,690 PA is a huge bargain, right?

Not really.

First, some of those costs are counted multiple times. For example, AutoCAD Civil 3D also includes AutoCAD Map 3D and AutoCAD, so that’s $2,100 worth, not $4,851. AutoCAD gets counted about five times if you just add up the numbers.

Next, it’s highly unlikely that anybody uses all of the products in a Suite or Collection. How many do get used? On average, two, according to Autodesk. That corresponds with my own experience. But let’s say you do have a need to use more than two? That leads us to…

The way Autodesk Collection licensing works, you can’t use more than two of the products in a Collection at once.

You won’t find that prominently displayed among all the marketing blurb that promotes the value for money of Collections. Instead, you’ll find words like these:

Download and install what you want, whenever you like—whether it’s for occasional use, to meet requirements of a particular project or client, or to explore new workflows.

That’s not actually false; you can indeed download and install all of those products (only one at a time, but that’s a different complaint). You’re just not allowed to use them. Not at once.

Where does it say that? Well, If you know what links to click, you can eventually find this KnowledeBase page that tells you about the restriction and which products it applies to. Which is pretty much all of them:

Individual users of an industry collection may access no more than two (2) of the following desktop titles at any one time.

Architecture, Engineering & Construction Collection
Autodesk® Advance Steel
Autodesk® AutoCAD®
Autodesk® AutoCAD® Architecture
Autodesk® AutoCAD® Civil 3d
Autodesk® AutoCAD® Electrical
Autodesk® AutoCAD® Map 3d
Autodesk® AutoCAD® MEP
Autodesk® AutoCAD® P&ID
Autodesk® AutoCAD® Plant 3d
Autodesk® AutoCAD® Utility Design
Autodesk® Dynamo Studio
Autodesk® Fabrication CADmep
Autodesk® Navisworks Manage
Autodesk® Revit:
Autodesk® Revit Architecture
Autodesk® Revit MEP
Autodesk® Revit Structure
Autodesk® Revit Live
Autodesk® Robot Structural Analysis Professional
Autodesk® Structural Bridge Design
Autodesk® 3ds Max

This is a ludicrous restriction. Imagine not being allowed to have three Office applications open at once. Clippy: “It looks like you’re trying to open a spreadsheet! Sorry, you’re already reading an email and you have a Word document open. Go away.”

Why is Autodesk doing this? To make sure you don’t get good value out of your subscription dollars. Remember, good value for you is less revenue for them. Want to do more stuff? Buy more licenses.

This restriction does not apply to Suites. There is no technical reason it has to apply to Collections, either. It’s just a stealthy cash grab.

This is how it goes with Autodesk subscription. You’ll get sucked in by promising-sounding marketing, then once you’re trapped you’ll get screwed over.


      1. Awood

        It happened a few quarters ago. Network licenses are still available for some products. AutoCAD for instance is available as multi-user, but not Civil 3D, not Revit, not Inventor Pro. So my original comment wasn’t entirely accurate.

  1. James Maeding

    Yep, I was going to mention the network thing too. When regular people buying new seats get faced with the collection cost, they will instead get non-networked civil3D. If a few need navis or infraworks, they will get one collection networked seat and share that. Another detail of all this is when suites were around, there was the middle level IDSP. The higher IDSU had navisworks manage so clash detection. The cost was $6k more, a huge jump. The current AEC collection has what IDSU had but costs even more. So they basically priced the collection out of reach for most as very few I know had IDSU. We all had IDSP because adesk gave it to us for almost free way back when. I don’t get adesk’s strategy because they knew how many had IDSU. Do they really think we will just say “we were on a suite before so we should just buy the new version of the suite”? Its ludicrous.

  2. James Maeding

    I was looking at the pdf from adesk. Page 34 has “why would they subscribe?” Meaning why would the switch to subscription?
    Well folks, in the past the reason was to be able to pay maintenance as opposed to re-buying the product to get next version.
    But now the answer is they will subscribe to use the current product at all.
    Forget support and the other ridiculous reasons on the list.
    The left off home use license for networked seats of course. They have no clue what we value the most.

  3. Fabien

    Steve, I’ve just got this from our reseller (in french, I’ll translate interesting bits further) :
    So it says : 25% rebate with old perpetual licenses … on acad, revit, our other new rental … 1-maintenance shouldn’t be active anymore; 2-it’s an upgrade from old perpetual to a new rental for 1 to 3 years; 3 – going back to a perpetual licence is possible
    ” going back to a perpetual licence is possible ” ? Have you seen that elsewhere ?
    We stopped maintenance on our 6 acad 2018 perpetual seats last year, and are planning to transition to Bricscad BIM and never go back to Autodesk, but this is suprising in the current debate.

      1. Fabien

        Here’s a PDF of the mail

        …and a link to the offer on their webpage :

        One should note that the “back to perpetual” point differs from mail to website, the mail says “Retour à la licence perpétuelle possible” (going back to perpetual license is possible), the site says “Possibilité de retour sous certaines conditions” (Ability to go back under some conditions). If you are interested about the “conditions”, I could phone them.

          1. Fabien

            I had them on the phone and also got this wonderful e-mail confirmation :
            Il existe 3 possibilités pour effectuer le « switch back » (retour à votre licence perpétuelle) :
            1 – Vous retournez endéans les 30 jours, vous revenez à vos anciennes conditions et pouvez encore profiter de future promotion avec votre numéro de série.
            2 – Au terme du contrat de 1 an que vous avez conclu, vous pouvez retourner à votre ancienne licence perpétuelle à condition de renouveler pour une 2ème année. Cependant votre numéro de série ne sera plus éligible aux futures promotions d’Autodesk.
            3 – Au terme du contrat de 3 ans que vous avez conclu, vous pouvez retourner à votre ancienne licence. Cependant votre numéro de série ne sera plus éligible aux futures promotions d’Autodesk.

            Attention pour les licences 2017 et 2018, si vous décidez de faire le « switch back », vous retournerez à des licences 2016.

            Rough translation :
            1 – within 30 days, you can go back to your perpetuals with the same serial and still be eligible for future promotions
            2 – after 1 year, you can go back to perpetual but should renew rental for 2nd year and your serial won’t be promotion-eligible again
            3 – after 3 years, you can go back to perpetual but your serial won’t be promotion-eligible again

            I had a hard time to not laugh on the phone at the last phrase :
            Warning, for 2017 and 2018 licenses, if you decide to switch back, you will return to 2016 licences.

  4. sam y

    So, do you have any suggestions as to what options we have? I know it’s ultimately up to our needs.

    However, as I see it, we can either:
    1. Stop paying for maintenance/subscription
    2. Switch software products (which isn’t easy)

    I’ve been reading autodesk forums as well and there isn’t really a resolution to this issue…

    1. Steve Johnson

      It all depends whether there is a realistic alternative to the Autodesk products you’re using. For AutoCAD, it’s clear that there is, and switching is a lot easier than you might think. For other software, maybe not, but it’s still worth investigating.

      While you’re investigating or switching, my general advice would be to keep paying for maintenance while you see the value in doing so. When the value’s not there, stop paying and continue using the perpetual license. Subscription? Not if it can be avoided.

  5. dave s

    One of the main downsides to adopting a platform like Autocad Plant 3d is that after you use it a while and gain a modicum of proficiency is that you realize that the program promises way more than it can deliver. You are locked in a yearly subscription and you find out it is glitchy, unstable and crash prone. I have been using it for a couple of years now and instead of making it more stable they incorporate more useless add on’s with each iteration. I have lost two projects due to a corruption of the file that to this day i cannot determine what caused the failure. Needless to say the P-Factor goes up each time i use it not knowing if I will be able to finish a project without a complete crash and burn. Does anybody have any experience with Solidworks to know if it is any more stable or not? Thanks for any feedback.

  6. Werner Senekal

    I have Revit 2015. some years I did well and upgraded, others I missed an upgrade, but somehow managed to update later on. Luckily I have my 2015 perpetual license, but since I cant upgrade anymore I am considering Archicad. This is how they get you by the b@!!$. So if you have a tough few month and cant upgrade immediately, you lose your software meaning you lose your job! Nice Autocad, you have just lost a client!

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