Autodesk and Adobe’s cloud-based subscription models

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Once again, it would appear to be the software firms, rather than the customers, who are getting the better deal from subscriptions
Regular readers will be aware of my interest in the software industry’s move to the cloud. In the past I have explained how many in the design software industry see this as a potential game changer where large firms may get it wrong, opening up the field to new software companies.

For now, many of the CAD firms have been experimenting and designing new applications or services based on cloud delivery. Firms like Autodesk have been at the head of the field to offer ‘infinite computing’ for process-heavy jobs, as well as offer collaboration services.

While we have seen some tech provided included in subscription, there has been very little in the way of ‘pure cloud plays’, or pricing for accessing cloud-only applications. This is the year that this all changes and cloud applications become a reality.

At DEVELOP3D LIVE, Carl Bass took the opportunity to announce pricing of $25 a month or $300 a year for access to its Fusion modelling product and services while at the same time Adobe announced a radical rethinking of its Creative Suite introducing the Creative Cloud and going completely to a subscription model.

Fusion for Autodesk is a new code base and an experimental product, its dabbling with subscription and cloud access is not risking Inventor sales or breaking its sales model in any significant way.

What Adobe has done is exactly the opposite, stating that in the future the only way to use these tools will be via cloud-based subscription. This has pleased and displeased customers in equal measure.

For large firms it makes pricing clear and flexible, for small firms it’s a perpetual yoke, with access to tools that they may not use or benefit from – and tools that used to be buy once, use infinite and upgrade when needed (or can be afforded) now become monthly costs per user.


Last year Adobe priced Creative Suite out of the ballpark if you wanted it on physical DVD, heavily promoting monthly subscription to access all the tools.

This year the only option is online subscription. To some extent the ‘cloud’ portion of this is really not particularly ‘cloudy’ in that the applications still need to be downloaded and run on a local machine. The main reason the internet is required, is to check that all the licenses are valid and that you have paid your fee for continued access.

There are some collaboration tools but these are not a significant part of the Creative Cloud suite of products.

Adobe’s monthly and ongoing Creative Cloud is priced to be cheaper than upgrading every release (approximately every 18 months) but for those that have been less enthusiastic about keeping up with the latest and greatest will now be forced to join in, or stay with the previous version (Creative Suite 6) for ever, or until the OS no longer supports it.

The mentality of buying something and running it for as long as makes sense, is no longer allowed. Similarly, if you are happy with a version and it does what you need for three or four years, unfortunately upgrades are forced on all users.

This significant decision has certainly upset many customers and I am sure the rest of the software industry, including our own CAD developers are watching what happens with great interest as many would like to follow in Adobe’s footsteps.

For the software companies, cloud and subscription will mean: piracy will be limited, revenues become consistent and easier to predict, customers more identifiable, usage becomes more traceable and customers get even more locked in with their data.

We are moving from a time where the software you think you own becomes clearly the software that you rent. The fees paid to the software companies start to look more like a gym or a golf club membership

Software has always been an enigma with hugely long and complicated end user agreements that if read, would probably put you off ever using it – but by opening the packaging you have already agreed the terms.

For as long as you have been buying, installing and using software, you have never actually owned it but have rather bought the right to use it on a single machine. The rental model just makes the ephemeral nature of software ‘ownership’ more obvious.

We are moving from a time where the software you think you own becomes clearly the software that you rent. The fees paid to the software companies start to look more like a gym or a golf club membership, with rights and privileges, so long as you keep paying.

This is the essence of the cloud and it’s very clear to me what the benefits will be to the software firms. The other side of the equation has yet to be proven and customers need to see they get actual usable benefits for their ‘membership’ fees.

The net result could be that the opportunity that the cloud actually offers new developers is to win market share by creating applications that are sold and not leased.

For now, the first true cloud contender for CAD comes from Autodesk and is called Autodesk Fusion 360. It is a cloud-based organic modelling tool that works across many devices (PC/ Mac), with collaboration/sharing enabling access to models anywhere you can get internet.

There will also be simulation, CAM and analysis tools to follow. Fusion 360 product suite will cost $25 to $50 per app, per user per month.

Martyn Day considers the costs of the Creative Cloud