The customer doesn’t count

Autodesk has been pushing for years now to get all customers onto an annual subscription program. They’ve trotted out the typical reasons: it’s cheaper, it’s easier, it’s simpler, you get more free stuff, etc. Clearly the “sell now, deliver later” model is better for Autodesk, and it’s not surprising that Autodesk has been pushing it hard.

One can imagine that tough economic times are taking a toll on Autodesk’s customers, and that they are deciding to jump off the subscription bandwagon. Ralph Grabowski suspects that plummeting subscription revenues are causing Autodesk to renew efforts to paint a rosy picture and convince its customers to stay on the wagon.

In an interview on Steve Johnson’s blog nauseam, Callan Carpenter of Autodesk attempts to portray non-subscription customers as a dying breed.

We’re down to very low single digits of customers who upgrade, and of those only half of those upgrade 1 or 2 years back. So we’re talking about approximately 1.5% of our revenue that comes from customers upgrading 1 and 2 versions back.

This statement seems to be carefully designed to imply that only 3% of customers are not on subscription. That’s not what it says, of course, but that’s the impression it attempts to convey. Without knowing the precise definition of “customers who upgrade” (how could you possibly know that a customer won’t upgrade?), and without knowing what percentage of those same revenues come from subscription customers, there is just no way to gain any real information from Callan’s statement.

Since I can throw numbers around just as well as the next guy, I decided to survey a random sampling of Autodesk customers (that also happen to be ManuSoft customers). According to the responses I received, 82% of Autodesk customers fall into the non-subscription category, and about half of those are in the “3 or more versions behind” category.

What’s really interesting is that if I carefully hand pick the time period, then about 3% of ManuSoft revenues for that time period came from non-subscription Autodesk customers. Funny how that works.

5 Comments

  1. I agree. For some customers the subscription program works for them well, but for many it’s arguable at best. Many of the incremental upgrade feature benefits are looking thinner lately. What’s worse though is the value of their support program. It’s pretty bad. For the amount of money they charge for “silver” and “platinum” support (which we have), we get answers to problems about 1 in 4. The other three we solve ourselves from Google searches or Autodesk discussion threads. The rest just go unsolved until the next service pack, hotfix or upgrade. The support program is lame. The ADN channel was a good support alternative until they turned that into a cash cow and then inserted more layers between developers and Autodesk programmers. It’s becoming a cattle trough mentality.

  2. In Q1, 11% of Autodesk revenues came from upgrades. Even in the upgrade-poor summer months, it represented 6.2% of revenues.

    I s’pose he got his 1.5% from carefully selecting the “1 or 2 years back” slice.

    • 3% non-subscription vs. 3.2% subscription is plausible, but only if you don’t count non-subscription customers who haven’t upgraded recently. I own (er, license) a substantial number of AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT seats, but I have never upgraded or subscribed to anything. The numbers confirm what I already suspected: I don’t count.

  3. Pingback: What proportion of Autodesk customers really are on Subscription?

  4. No schtick here. I have tetesd Vault extensively over a 4 month span and every test result shows me that my Civil 3D users are much better off without it. When I and my Civil CAD guys were testing out Vault, there was a significant loss in productivity, and my users hated using it. I didn’t find Vault to be efficient in production. While the Vault interface is easy to use, that is the only positive thing about it. As a Civil CAD guy for 22 years, CAD speed is everything, and if a software package doesn’t make your life at the CAD station easier, faster or more productive, it needs to bring something to the table that warrants using it. I’m sure some out there may disagree with me, but I sure could not find any companies using Civil 3D who sang Vault’s praises. Once we stopped using Vault, productivity and efficiency increased immediately. Matter of fact, our Chief Civil PE mandated we no longer use Vault under any circumstance.

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