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Autodesk Nudges Customers Toward Subscription with Upgrade Deadline

In the latest push to get customers onto subscription, Autodesk announced February 15, 2015, as the deadline to upgrade non-current software. After the deadline, you'll need to pay full price to get the latest software.

The warning shot was fired last November. It came in the form of a notice to Autodesk customers. This was perhaps the portion that deserves to be in red letters:

As of February 1, 2015, Autodesk will no longer offer the option to purchase upgrades for all non-current product versions.

In other words, if you’re still using older versions of the company’s software (say, AutoCAD 2008 or Inventor 2010), you have until February 2015 to buy an upgrade to move to the latest version. If you want to get the latest version after February 2015, you’ll have to pay full price for the new version; you won’t have the option to pay the upgrade fee to get it.

It’s unclear how many commercial and education customers are affected by this, but according to Autodesk’s FAQ, “The upgrade policy change will affect all customers, both direct customers and non-direct customers, who purchase software without Autodesk Subscription.”

The move is Autodesk’s nudge (for some, it might feel like a push) to get its customers onto the subscription model and the rental model, introduced in Septemberly 2013. Andrew Anagnost, Autodesk’s senior VP of industry strategy and marketing, told investors in a conference call, “Upgrades are a small part of our business, and we want customers to get the latest technology and updates from us and the best vehicle for customers that own perpetual license to do that is Maintenance Subscription.”

The policy change doesn not spell the end of perpetual licenses from Autodesk, but it’s a clear sign that Autodesk wants to sell not just the license but a subscription along with it. The company’s FAQ states, “At this time, Autodesk has no plans to change the licensing model across the board for all products. Perpetual licenses with Subscription continue to be a very important part of our portfolio.” (Italic emphasis is mine.)

Ryan McVay, a CAD/PLM system administrator and analyst, imagined a scenario where this upgrade policy could become a dilemma for a user. “If the company doesn’t have such a good year and decides they can’t pay maintenance and they miss a year of subscription, they would then need to repurchase to get the latest version (one version back). That is a steep price to pay for missing one year.”

Edward Lopategui, a technology evangelist and entrepreneur, believes the policy brings the company “one step closer towards Adobe’s philosophy … to kill the perpetual license entirely.”

Last May, when Adobe announced it would no longer offer its most popular product, Creative Suites, under perpetual licensing, but would only offer it under subscription, as Adobe Cloud, it caused an uproar among some of its users.

At least for now, Autodesk isn’t suggesting that’s what it plans to do. But along with Autodesk, Dassault Systemes and Siemens PLM Software are testing the water with rental option.

How does this upgrade policy change affect your business? Share your thoughts in our LinkedIn discussion thread here.

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About Kenneth

Kenneth Wong has been a regular contributor to the CAD industry press since 2000, first an an editor, later as a columnist and freelance writer for various publications. During his nine-year tenure, he has closely followed the migration from 2D to 3D, the growth of PLM (product lifecycle management), and the impact of globalization on manufacturing. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst, Computer Graphics World, and Manufacturing Business Technology, among others.


  1. Hmmm, I wonder how much this will help them, and how much it will just push customers to alternatives. Maybe I’m just looking at it from a mechanical viewpoint, but with free alternatives like Draftsight, my company is looking at minimizing AutoCAD licensing costs and may drop all subscription-support for AutoCAD (we have support subscriptions for AutoCAD and Inventor right now).

    I can keep a single seat of Inventor up to date for data tranlsations, and to keep access to AutoCAD Mechanical, and let the subscriptions lapse on the basic AutoCAD product, saves me over 50% on my subscription costs (I have more AutoCAD licenses than Inventor licenses).

  2. Tom: Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Indeed, for some, subscription costs more in the long run, so they’ll come up with creative means to minimize their licensing costs.

  3. I have used Autodesk Inventor software since version 5. Over the years, I have spent a lot of time convincing my colleagues that Inventor was just as good as Solidworks. However, with the change in upgrade policy, I have decided to move to another platform. This represents a major loss of investment. I consider Autodesk’s change in upgrade policy to be a betrayal. I purchased the product with the belief that I would be able to maintain ownership of the software over the long term. Now, I am told that going forward, I will only be able to lease new seats of the product, essentially yanking it off the shelf. Their change in policy will boost profits in the short term, but in the long term, I think they are going to lose significant market share. They are not like Adobe who has a corner on the graphic design market. Autodesk has competitors who offer a viable alternative.

  4. hi AC,
    you are not the only one whos mad at Autodesk:

    And if you are looking for a cost-effectiv alternative to Autocad, AresCOmmander might be interesting for you:


  5. Lets go back to drawing board era. It will generate more stable jobs. Even today, I can see most of the time we don’t need that CAD. The mission to (so called!) moon was accomplished during drawing board era. Similar mission seems impossible during CAD era. Most inventions and development was happened without CAD.

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