Video: Carl Bass on the Cloud

28 Nov, 2012 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

Transcription of video recorded at Q&A session with media attending Autodesk University 2012, November 28, 2012, Las Vegas, Nevada.

At a Q&A session with media attending Autodesk University 2012 in Las Vegas on November 28, CEO Carl Bass clarified previous statements regarding “all” software moving to the cloud and what customers can expect in the foreseeable future. Following is a video recording of his comments and a written transcript of the video.

Note: I have transcribed the original video to the best of my ability; however, portions of the audio recording are not 100% clear and therefore open to interpretation. Please listen to the video and draw any conclusions based the original recording. —NSJ


My original question to Carl Bass and the first 30 seconds (approx.) of his reply are not captured by the recording. I include the gist of my question below and begin this transcription where the recording begins. —NSJ

Nancy Johnson: In the past, on more than one occasion, the media has reported you saying that you believe all software will be on the cloud within the next few years, and there’s been more buzz recently related to what exactly you’ve said, what you really meant, and how some customers are reacting. Could you clarify for us exactly what you mean by these remarks? Are you referring to public or private clouds, and are you referring to software in general, Autodesk software, or both?

Carl Bass [0:00]: … I was talking to my mom and she was lamenting the local post office closing, and I’m like, ‘I don’t think I get anything useful in the U.S. mail. Having it close would not be the worst thing for me.’

I think if you just think broadly, about society, you say everything is moving to the cloud. The Internet is the greatest connectivity device ever invented; it’s the greatest telecommunication device that people have ever invented. And so I do believe that everything’s moving to the cloud.

[0:35] Moving down a level to Autodesk, I think we’ve demonstrated we’re moving a lot of software to the cloud. I don’t think that means everyone is moving to the cloud. You know, if you look today, and I do it every day today, and I imagine three years from now I’ll do it, I think there are a lot of applications that will be done on the desktop; I think there’s a lot of power and capacity there that will continue to be used. Whether Autodesk does it or not, I can’t think of a single kind of engineering/design function that some startup somewhere won’t do on the cloud. … I mean, look, if you look today, we already described a fairly complete portfolio that goes from PLM to simulation to hard-core design that’s on the cloud and running today.

[1:28] So, for me to say — I mean, it’s almost not like forecasting the future; you know, the future is here today. Things will be on the cloud, there will be dozens of start-ups that will add more capacity and capability out there to what’s going on. I think there are a huge number of obstacles to every organization, you know, adopting cloud technology, and I don’t think they’re insignificant. … I’ve talked to a lot of customers this week already. The two I find that are foremost in peoples' mind, the first one that jumps to everyone’s mind is the question of security — privacy, liability — something around, you know, levels of service in some ways and concern about confidential information. I think some of those will fall by the wayside; I think others will be there. I think, you know, do you expect to see dramatic breaches of privacy? Yeah, we’ve already seen them. You know, a year-and-a-half ago, remember, the thing that got characterized by the press as the Google attack, but was really a really broad and wide attack on industrial, financial, and technology assets in the United States, that was a broad-based, industrial espionage attack. That will continue to happen. To the extent we do it there or anywhere else, there will be serious things to consider. I think that is not one that goes away easily.

[3:00] I think the other thing is, in many cases, for anyone to move to any new technology platform, you have to do more than merely replace what people have today. <?> … Desktop tools are incredibly robust today. For what we do today — and I mean we, collectively, the industry — we have come a long way. People do amazing things with the collective set of tools out there, whether it’s the cars or the spacecraft or the aircraft or the consumer products, buildings, infrastructure that are built every day, it is amazing what people have actually done with those tools. And they are all essentially done on the desktop. And they are well integrated into the processes of the companies that do it.

[3:44] So anyone who wants to come along and convince somebody to use another kind of tool, it has to be really compelling. So what is that compelling event? If I’m merely replacing, I don’t think people change. I think what we’ll see with the cloud, most likely, is it will look a lot like every other disruptive technology. That it will be identical. The big, mainstream people will find lots of reasons to not use it, to poo-poo it to some extent, to downplay its significance. But you will find — you know, for the students, they will find this a great platform. If you look at Fusion 360, it should be in every university in the world. It’s better than whatever tool is installed today, I guarantee it. If you look at small businesses, you’re going to have cloud-based engineering tools that are more appropriate than the things that they have today and have access to.

[4:50] So just like in all the other disruptives, you will find people who are underserved or overserved by technology, who find this new generation useful, while many of the stronger, more established people find really no need for it. And over time, that battle will play out. But, you know, in some ways, the statement, you know, the seemingly prophetic statement that everything is moving to the cloud, I think it’s self evident that it is moving there. I think the real trick is seeing how many people and how fast they move to the cloud and how many people find that the other environments they have are more productive and more compelling.

There’s a follow-up?

Nancy Johnson [5:34]: Yes! So, for the foreseeable future, will your customers have a choice?

Carl Bass: Absolutely. I tried to be as clear as possible on the main stage about that, about saying, first of all, we see our role as toolmakers. And what we want to do is provide a broad choice of tools; we don’t try to tell them to run on Mac or Windows, we don’t say use this browser or that, don’t be on an Android or iOS device. Our goal is to give the broadest selection of tools out there and give people a choice to do it. What’s interesting is that if you look at these so-called cloud apps, what they really are is some kind of distributed application — there’s some computing going on ‘up there’ somewhere, and some computing going on on your local device. You know, and just to use like a simple analogy, we will all be better off when the way people use their tools looks more like, on your phone using Yelp. I don’t know — I use Yelp. What I’m doing is looking for a restaurant. I’m talking about a higher order of what I want to do. I don’t know if the map’s coming from here, or whether the data is cached — look — I don’t care, I’m just trying to find a restaurant to eat at and I want to know what other people think about it. And I think that’s a better thing.

[6:54] So, the real direct answer is, yeah, customers will absolutely have a choice. To the extent people find this the most productive environment to be working in, they should absolutely use it. My suggestion to anyone would not even to move wholesale. Even if you love the vision of where we’re going, what you should do is figure out which of the things that make the most sense and incorporate them one by one — even if you like it. If you hate it, you shouldn’t do anything differently than what you’re doing today.

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