March has become the traditional time for the yearly release of Autodesk’s product updates. This year, however, the usual list of features and functions has taken the backseat to packaging and ‘bang for the buck’.
Previously Autodesk dabbled in creating Microsoft Office / Adobe Creative Suite-like bundles with products such as the Inventor Suite, but with the 2012 products this strategy has now been greatly expanded, offering discounts of between 18% and 68% on pricing.
The new Autodesk Product Design Suite (APDS) is described as offering ‘digital prototyping in a box’. There are three flavours:
– Product Design Suite Standard – A foundation for conceptual design, drafting and product design, featuring AutoCAD Mechanical, Showcase, SketchBook Designer, Vault and Mudbox. (£5,200).
– Product Design Suite Premium – This includes everything in the Standard Suite plus Inventor and 3ds Max Design for visualisation and animation. (£6,300)
– Product Design Suite Ultimate – In addition to everything in Standard and Premium, Ultimate includes advanced surfacing, simulation and tooling, featuring Inventor Professional and Alias Design. (£9,600)
Autodesk also released the second version of its Factory Design Suite 2012. The three flavours (standard, Premium and Ultimate) offer factory-specific functionality in both AutoCAD Architecture and Inventor, combined with Navisworks for visualisation and Vault. New additions include AutoCAD Mechanical for automating mechanical CAD tasks and 3ds Max Design and Showcase for enhancing communication and bids.
Inventor Fusion, which has been under development in Autodesk Labs for a few years, has also made its commercial debut. It is now included at no extra cost as a companion application to Alias Design, Alias Automotive, Inventor, Moldflow, Autodesk Simulation (formerly called Algor) and AutoCAD products. Inventor Fusion is an easy-to-use direct 3D modelling tool which enables quick design changes. It also unites direct and parametric workflows within a single digital model created in Inventor.
For Inventor subscription customers there are some great bundles coming their way. If you have Inventor Suite (which most have), then subscribers will be automatically upgraded to Product Design Suite Premium. Customers of Inventor Professional, routed systems, tooling or simulation will be automatically upgraded to Product Design Suite Ultimate.
There were a number of stand-alone Inventor 2011s sold and these will not get a suite upgrade. Other individual products are also still available as single 2012 upgrades. DEVELOP3D will be taking a closer look at features and functions in-depth over the coming months.
As an aside, it seems DVDs are now out of fashion and the product suites will be delivered on a single non-erasable 32GB USB stick. There are also suites for AutoCAD users (Autodesk Design Suite, again in three configurations), AEC and Plant customers.
Analysis: a closer look at the new suites
Autodesk has had a mushrooming catalogue of products. The bundle strategy makes a lot more sense to get all this technology into the hands of its users. On the face of things, this is a massive bonus for those on subscription to gain access to a number of products that they have probably lusted after but could not particularly justify.
From Autodesk’s business standpoint, the company can raise the price of the average sale, selling a suite over a single license and some of these product bundles will really be desired by customers, specifically the Premium.
Fusion isn’t a product ‘for sale’ but Autodesk has adopted the mindset to give it away with practically everything (including architecture products) as a stand-alone, easy modelling tool. If people realise that it is included, Autodesk hopes to seed the market and ease people from 2D into 3D.
However, there are a few caveats that come with all these ‘bundles’ of joy. While on a single machine all products can be opened simultaneously, on a multiple licence network, only one application from that Suite can be used at one time – so no sneaky arming four people with individual packages from one Suite.
There are also questions about how any single person can be proficient in all these mature and powerful applications and how infrequent use will actually inhibit rather than help productivity. Autodesk will be coming up with some typical workflows over the next few months to highlight the benefits.
While Autodesk is saying the subscription fees are staying the same for now, we suspect that, over time, the subscription fee for a suite over a single seat will widen, increasing cost of ownership. It’s easy to create bundles and practically give them away to subscription customers as this bypasses the need to actually sell the benefits. In the long term, however, Autodesk and its dealers will need to evangelise what customers actually already own to ensure that customers see the value.
This is perhaps a ‘gift horse’ that does need some examining, in terms of ongoing cost, deployment and benefit.
As things stand, these new Autodesk suites provide a powerful integrated combination of tools to cover everything from concept sketching, through engineering and analysis, all the way to marketing and customer presentation.
At time of press there was no mention of the Manufacturing bundles on the Autodesk UK website. From looking at the US site, however, It’s nice to see us Brits we are paying 1.5x more than the Americans as usual.
Meanwhile, to read more about the trend for software developers to offer suites of tools, read Martyn Day’s Comment here.