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.

New ManuSoft web site

After over 10 years of the same infrastructure and the same look and feel, the ManuSoft web site has finally been given an overhaul. The original web site used Perl scripts that I wrote myself to serve up pages by patching together a header, table-of-contents, and main content frame and displaying it either as a 3-frame web page or by using an HTML <table> to format the layout. It wasn’t exactly pretty, but it functioned well and served its purpose for a long time.

So what prompted the new design? Primarily my desire to make it easier for customers to download updates to previously purchased software. The old web site used a rather simplistic authentication system that resulted in me spending a lot of time looking up order numbers for customers who had lost their order information. There also was no automated way for customers to update their own registration information, so I had to do that as well.

The new web site requires only a user name and password, both of which can be retrieved or reset simply by entering the email address for the account. Hopefully this will reduce the need for manual intervention. If you purchased ManuSoft software in the past, please visit the Customer Service page now to activate your account (in the Legacy Account section).

I used Joomla for the content management system and VirtueMart for the shopping cart, both of them heavily customized. The template I chose doesn’t work correctly with IE6, but later versions of IE, FireFox, Opera, and Chrome seem to work pretty well (except that, ironically, my Google Translate widget displays incorrectly in Chrome).

I think the new site looks a bit nicer and more modern than the old one, although it’s still amateur by most standards. As long as it serves its purpose of making both yours and my job easier, I’m satisfied.

AutoCAD 2011 EULA Changes

For AutoCAD 2011, Autodesk made relatively few changes in the EULA. They fixed the grammar error that was introduced in AutoCAD 2010, but they didn’t make any changes to the convoluted “License Grant” wording that was also added in AutoCAD 2010.

There are a handful of minor tweaks here and there, but the only substantial change is some newly added text in section 9.1 that is intended to make sure that AutoCAD licenses can’t be liquidated during bankruptcy proceedings:

In the context of any bankruptcy proceeding, You acknowledge and agree that this Agreement is and shall be treated as an executory contract of the type described by Section 365(c)(1) of Title 11 of the United States Code and may not be assigned without Autodesk’s prior written consent, which may be withheld in Autodesk’s sole and absolute discretion.

Just for fun, I made a chart that shows how the AutoCAD US/Canada EULA has grown since AutoCAD 2000. The EULA grew 150% from 12139 non-space characters in AutoCAD 2000 to 30235 non-space characters in AutoCAD 2011. For what it’s worth, the size of acad.exe grew 75% in the same timeframe.

AutoCAD 2011 EULA Growth Chart