Autodesk subscription offer – the first cracks appear in the all-rental wall

Thanks to a comment by Fabien, I recently learned of a new offer from Autodesk to convert perpetual licenses to subscription (rental). It turns out that this is a global offer from 7 February 7 to 20 April 2018.

Such offers come and go from time to time and most are not particularly interesting. This one is. Not because you’ll want to take it up (you probably won’t), but because of what it represents.

Here’s how it appears on Autodesk’s site:

What’s really interesting about this offer is this sentence:

If you are not satisfied, you can switch back to your perpetual license.

With that, we see the first solid acknowledgement from Autodesk of the reason so many existing customers are stubbornly refusing to put themselves in rental chains, despite the cracking of price whips. Customers like their perpetual licenses and are unwilling to give them away. This offer holds out the promise that they can be returned. There’s a lot of fine print that severely restricts the utility of the offer and I can’t see many savvy customers falling for it, but at least an attempt (however weak) is being made to placate perpetual license holders.

The offer is explained in the FAQs and more detail is available in the Terms & Conditions page. Here’s an overview of how it works.

  1. You trade in your perpetual license of AutoCAD, LT, Suites or several other products using this link. These can be out of maintenance and could date back to Release 14 from 20 years ago*.
  2. You sign up for subscription of an Industry Collection for 1 or 3 years. Of course, the subscription cost of an Industry Collection is pretty substantial and way more than the maintenance costs of, say, AutoCAD – even with Autodesk’s promised price hikes. For example, the AEC Collection is USD $2,018 a year under this offer, down from $2,690.
  3. The subscription cost is 25% less than it is without this offer. It’s still pretty expensive, particularly as you can’t use more than two applications in the Collection at once, but it is a bit less than is would be,
  4. You are given the option of backing out of the deal (“switch back” is the Autodesk term) within a specific 30-day window if not satisfied. That window is at the end of the full 3-year period, or after 2 years if you sign up for 1-year increments. You get your perpetual license back. You don’t get your money back.
  5. If you switch back, it’s up to you to make sure you have the media and necessary details to reinstall the old release.
  6. If you switch back, you don’t get to resume maintenance if you had it. If you didn’t already have your product under maintenance, this is fair enough.
  7. If you switch back, your perpetual license is reverted to its original release. Oh, except if you started at 2017 or 2018. In that case, you are reverted to 2016.

That last part is a nasty, petty detail. Somebody at Autodesk actually thought that up, presented it at a meeting and had it accepted as a good idea. That’s the mentality we’re dealing with here. It’s not so much “How can we better serve customers so they want to give us more money?”, it’s more “How can we hurt customers who don’t do what we want?”

If you take up this offer, the idea is to get you using the new software because there’s a bit less finality about the decision. You might be so impressed by it that you forget you’ve discarded your escape plan and signed yourself up for perpetual payment of large amounts. You might also find that you’ve saved all your files in new formats and can’t go back without losing data, particularly if you’ve used the vertical products that really, really don’t like having their drawings saved back to earlier releases, even within the same nominal DWG format. So maybe there’s a bit more finality than first appears, but by the time you’ve got to that stage it will be too late.

Is this an attractive offer? Only if you were going to subscribe to an Industry Collection anyway and have an old dormant license hanging around. In that case, go for it, save 25% of a large amount. Other than that, it’s really not an offer that will have widespread appeal and I suspect most customers will give it a miss.

Autodesk is getting increasingly desperate to get its long-term customers on the rental gravy train, and the cracks have started to appear in the subscription-only facade. This offer’s not great but I suspect the offers are only going to get better as the “Another great quarter!” patter wears thinner and thinner. The offers will have to get much better than this effort to persuade your average perpetual license owner to get on board.

* Pedantic historical point: in multiple places, this promotion associates Release 14 with the year 1998, implying this is the earliest year you could have bought an eligible product. This is incorrect. Release 14 was released in February 1997 and was replaced by AutoCAD 2000 in March 1999.

2 Comments

  1. James Maeding

    wow, kick back to 2016 and no maintenance option. Its like they don’t want you to take the deal. Guess 2016 is the “briar patch” version you get thrown to if you don’t like rental.

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