How Will AutoCAD 2019 and Autodesk's New Licensing Approach Affect CAD Managers?

27 Mar, 2018 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: Although the "One AutoCAD" release may not feature big changes to the application itself, it does include major changes to what’s included with AutoCAD, and how the software is licensed.

The new AutoCAD 2019 release hit the streets last week, bearing a limited list of new features but accompanied by significant licensing changes that may make you rethink how you handle your AutoCAD purchases. Dubbed “One AutoCAD,” the new release seeks to provide more functionality than a vanilla seat of AutoCAD, but at a higher cost than AutoCAD 2018.

In this edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, we’ll take a deeper look at the launch of One AutoCAD, and consider how Autodesk’s approach to licensing and software delivery may affect our companies. After all, you know your boss is going to ask you about this, so the time understand it all is now. Here goes.

New AutoCAD Features in the 2019 Release

In my article published on the day of One AutoCAD’s release, I provided an overview of the new features, as well as my take on their usefulness. If you didn’t get a chance to read that yet you may want to do so now, so the remainder of this newsletter will make more sense.

One AutoCAD Rolls Many Verticals into One Product

Given the limited set of new features in AutoCAD 2019, it appears the meat of the new One AutoCAD is the inclusion of what used to be called “verticals” and are now called “toolsets.” For example, what used to be a separate product called AutoCAD Architecture is now known as One AutoCAD’s Architecture Toolset. As you can see in the illustration below, One AutoCAD comprises almost all the AutoCAD verticals, except Civil 3D.

One AutoCAD includes a variety of vertical extensions; Civil 3D, however, will become Autodesk Civil 3D and be offered as a separate product.

Initial Conclusions

Although it was just released, we can make several conclusions about One AutoCAD already. Those include:

  • Desktop users won’t notice any big changes. If you use AutoCAD as a standalone application on a workstation, you simply won’t see much difference.
  • If you don’t need Internet connectivity or collaborative features, you won’t much care either. If you don’t send shared views, do markups, or plan to use the web-based AutoCAD solution, then you won’t be using many of AutoCAD 2019’s new features.
  • If you don’t have a use for the newly available toolsets, you won’t value their inclusion. Certainly, if you use multiple toolsets and you previously had to pay for the verticals separately, then this may be a bargain for you. But if you don’t need them, what’s the point?

While these conclusions may seem negative, the reality is that there are still a lot of people who use vanilla AutoCAD without any web or collaborative functions and no product extensions (now called toolsets). For those users, One AutoCAD simply may not be worth it … unless they’re on subscription, which brings us to the next major topic.

Licensing Changes

As I mentioned in my article last week, perpetual license holders will not be able to obtain the new One AutoCAD release, so they won’t have access to the new toolsets. And those already on subscription will see a 7% increase in cost.

Before we go any further, let’s review the difference between a perpetual and subscription license:

  • Perpetual. You can run the software as long as you wish; this license type never expires. If you want to upgrade to the next version of the software, then you must pay a maintenance fee (which Autodesk has already stated will escalate in coming years).
  • Subscription. This license type is essentially rental for a term of months, quarters, or years. If you don’t renew when the subscription is up, you can no longer run the software.

Now let’s draw a few conclusions about the license change policies for One AutoCAD:

  • Perpetual license holders lose value. If you are a perpetual license holder, you won’t be able to access One AutoCAD toolsets — unless you trade in your licenses and convert to subscription. So even though you’ve paid maintenance fees for years, it appears you’re no longer entitled to all the features of an upgraded version.
  • Subscription license holders will see higher prices. A one-year subscription for One AutoCAD is now $1,575, as opposed to AutoCAD 2018’s $1,470 annual fee.
  • Migration requires some effort. According to the AutoCAD 2019 FAQ document, those who own current vertical applications, such as AutoCAD Architecture or Plant 3D, will have to go through a conversion process to get One AutoCAD.

Autodesk is pushing customers to subscription. By restricting new products and features to subscription holders only, the perceived value of perpetual licenses is diminished in comparison. Clearly Autodesk wants everyone on subscription-based (rental) software.

Early Rollout Problems

On the day of One AutoCAD’s rollout (March 22, 2018), my Facebook group CAD Managers Unite! blew up with reports of ill-functioning downloads, customers’ inability to authorize software, and even the prior version (AutoCAD 2018) losing license registration. Autodesk released a statement saying the problem wasn’t widespread, but it appeared consistent enough for those trying to upgrade on the first day. As of this writing, there is still an alert on the Autodesk Knowledge Network site reading, “Some customers may experience delays managing users, assigning software permissions, or downloading software. We apologize for the inconvenience while we work to resolve this issue.”

While there are always stock responses given by software vendors in the case of problems, such as “It didn’t affect many users” or “Never try to upgrade on the first day of any product,” the fact was that those users who were affected experienced real problems that caused loss of use of their software — not just the new software, but the prior version as well — for days, in some cases, plus the hassle of reinstallation. That type of work disruption is costly, as users remain idle and CAD managers scramble to deal with the problem. It points to some of the vulnerabilities of subscription software that CAD managers, and their companies, need to be aware of.

What Does One AutoCAD Foretell?

Let’s review some of the salient points that the One AutoCAD upgrade cycle has made clear:

  • New AutoCAD desktop features continue to be minimal; the emphasis in AutoCAD’s development is on collaborative/web tools.
  • Those who don’t require collaborative/web tools won’t see much benefit in One AutoCAD, unless they really need additional toolsets.
  • Those who don’t require the collaborate/web tools or vertical toolsets really don’t need One AutoCAD.
  • Perpetual license holders are locked out of One AutoCAD benefits unless they convert to subscription, meaning the value of their maintenance contracts (which are forecast to go up 10% in 2018 and 20% in 2019) is diminished.
  • Prior-version authorization is no longer guaranteed to function after a new version upgrade (at least as of now), as 2018 licensing ceased working for many who attempted the One AutoCAD upgrade last week.

Some of the questions I’ve already received from CAD managers read like these:

  • “Does the new licensing direction we see for One AutoCAD mean that we can expect a similar experience with other software products, such as Revit or Inventor, in the upcoming months?”
  • “Will new collections or packages of software products provide more software titles (which we may or may not need) along with a price increase, like One AutoCAD?”
  • “What should I do with my perpetual licenses now? Just stop paying the maintenance fee?”

There’s no way to know the answer to these questions, but given the continual push from Autodesk toward subscription, it seems at least plausible that the first two scenarios will come to pass. The last question is much harder to analyze.

Summing Up

As has been the case for the last few years, upgrades to Autodesk’s AutoCAD desktop software products are receiving fewer new design features and more web/mobile collaboration features, but that’s not the real story with One AutoCAD. The real story is about whether perpetual license holders paying maintenance fees are being treated equitably, and how existing customers are being compelled to pay higher subscription fees.

While there will undoubtedly be AutoCAD customers who will love the new One AutoCAD package of programs, there will be many more who will have questions about the new restrictions on perpetual licenses and how their total cost of ownership for AutoCAD will go up over time. What’s your opinion on how all this will affect your AutoCAD usage? Contact me at and let me know.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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Re: How Will AutoCAD 2019 and Autodesk's New Licensing...
by: CyberN
March 28, 2018 - 3:19pm
We are on a Perpetual license with no subscription for AutoCAD Architectural Desktop. We have no wish to ever RENT. None of the new features that have been added to try and add value is sufficient to warrant the price of even 1 rental payment. Just because shareholders want to inflate the companies stock value temporarily before cutting and taking their profits, does not mean this or any of the carrots held out over the recent past to get users to part with coveted perpetual licenses, are viable reasons to many users to switch to subscription (RENT). The rhetoric that the value of perpetual licenses is degraded is null. We own and control our destiny, but once you give that up your company's very ability to do business is tied to a payment. That is a risky proposition when things get slow. Every Architect who has been through a bad slow down knows that the ability to be flexible and the requirement to provide free site studies and other preliminary design services is necessary marketing to get a contract. If the rental payment is due and you cant pay it for lack of work... then how does one do the preliminaries necessary to get that work? The bottom line is that AutoDESK is increasingly desperate to provide new 'value' sufficient to attract users with perpetual license to roll over and pay for RENT F O R E V E R. This benefits no-one but AutoDESK. What was once an ally is now an impediment, if not an enemy. AutoDESK needs to allow for those who want to buy a perpetual license to be able to do so. RENT for some is simply not a viable option. In the end, there is a very valid reason that users are resisting the new 'licensing model', and that ultimate reason is that its not a license - its a rental agreement. Sincerely, Kevin Simmons
Re: How Will AutoCAD 2019 and Autodesk's New Licensing...
by: jmaeding
March 28, 2018 - 7:25pm
This "suite" thing has to be the weirdest thing ever. They came up with the "Only One" slogan to counter the "Other One - Bricscad", yet if its so special, why throw in the freebees? The development teams for those add-ons must be freaking, like they matter less than anyone now.
Re: How Will AutoCAD 2019 and Autodesk's New Licensing...
by: patmang
April 10, 2018 - 6:39pm
Hopefully the competition will step up their game soon. With all the lay-offs and poor business model decisions, they are swimming in their own nonsensical consequences. I am eager to see another mainstream cad package that doesn't have over anxious shareholders and BS rental schemes. I see more and more published articles on Brics, Progecad and ZW and they are not far behind now...keep up the momentum guys your time is coming! I've said it before and I'll say it again...They've exhausted all their 3rd party developers and slowly integrated their features as new features to charge more and when everyone went away, they were caught with no new ideas so hey...why not rent the car now you paid off years ago? ...GET REAL..Should be called "AutoCAD ONE & DONE!"
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