Autodesk Software Goes Subscription-Only in 2016

25 Aug, 2015 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: With major licensing policy changes on the way, it’s essential to make a plan for how you’ll purchase seats of AutoCAD and other software titles.

I've received many questions about the big changes in 2016 licensing terms from Autodesk. These policies will force companies to make financial decisions with long-term impacts by January 2016, so you must start planning now — while you still have time to get your management on board. In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I will address these questions and give CAD managers some key pieces of information for planning purposes. Here goes.

Note: I realize that not everyone reading this uses Autodesk software, but if Autodesk's changes take hold, it is reasonable to assume that other CAD software vendors will implement similar policies, which will require similar planning strategies.

Transition to Rental Software

If you've been following the past few editions of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, you're already aware that Autodesk will no longer sell individual products, such as AutoCAD, under "perpetual licensing" terms after January 2016. Starting next January, an annual rental plan — what Autodesk calls a desktop subscription — will require you to rent the software in monthly or yearly installments. More comprehensive software suites, where multiple programs are bundled together, are not subject to the new policy yet, but are slated to make the transition in 2017, according to press releases from earlier this year.

Before we delve deeper into evaluating the transition from perpetual to rental licensing, let's clarify the vocabulary involved. In addition to defining the key terms below, I include a reference price for each type of plan, based on an AutoCAD-only license. This way we'll have a consistent set of terminologies and a reference point so we can perform cost analyses.

Perpetual license: This is the traditional "buy it once" software license we've all purchased in the past. For a single seat of AutoCAD, the perpetual license cost is currently $4,195.

Maintenance subscription: Often simply called "subscription," this is the annual support contract for perpetual licenses that entitles you to all updates to the product. The maintenance subscription keeps your perpetual license up to date and gives you access to utilities and cloud services, provided you renew it each year. The single-seat AutoCAD maintenance subscription cost is $545 per year.

Desktop subscription: This is Autodesk's term for software rental. If you renew your desktop subscription each year, you are entitled to all updates, utilities, and cloud services. A single-seat AutoCAD desktop subscription costs $1,680 per year.

What Are Your Options?

If your company licenses individual Autodesk software products, here are your options going forward:

New perpetual licenses. To purchase a new perpetual license, you'll need to buy it prior to January 2016, and place the license on maintenance subscription when purchased, in order to to keep the perpetual license active for the future.

Existing perpetual licenses with subscription. If you have licenses already and those licenses are on a maintenance subscription plan, then you can continue to maintain your subscription for the "foreseeable future," according to the Autodesk web site.

Expired perpetual licenses. If you have old licenses that are no longer on maintenance subscription, then you'll need to upgrade the perpetual licenses and add maintenance subscription to keep the licenses current in the future.

When subscriptions lapse. If you don't get perpetual single-product licenses current and on subscription by January 2016, you'll be able to keep using the software but you'll no longer be able to upgrade it. In this scenario your perpetual license is deemed expired, so you'll have to move to software rental in the future.

Upgrade to suites. A less-defined option for upgrading is to convert a single product — such as AutoCAD — to a suite-based perpetual license. For example, if you'll want Revit licenses in the future but not more AutoCAD licenses, then upgrading to a suite-based license with Revit included would be a way to avoid software rental. I've not yet seen a comprehensive summary from Autodesk, so it is worth asking your reseller for details. Keep in mind that it sounds like plans are set for those suite-based products to become subscription-only the following year.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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Re: Autodesk Software Goes Subscription-Only in 2016
by: cmwade77
August 26, 2015 - 12:14pm
Something you haven't mentioned here is it doesn't have to be all one or the other. Let's say you already own 10 perpetual licenses and down the road, you need to hire someone for say 3 months, you can buy a monthly subscription for the one license for 3 months. This is one of the few advantages the rental model has.
Re: Autodesk Software Goes Subscription-Only in 2016
by: AKirk
August 26, 2015 - 12:33pm
Other software companies may not go the “software for rent” route. If fact by not going this route this may open up a competitive advantage for these companies for those not pleased with the new software model.
Re: Autodesk Software Goes Subscription-Only in 2016
by: James Rison
August 26, 2015 - 2:17pm
The costs for existing customers has doubled. I'm using pricing for Autocad LT, but it will be going from $180 per year on subscription to $360 per year for desktop subscription. The initial purchase price of $1200 was paid 8 years ago. I am pretty sure that the yearly cost of Building Design Suite Premium, has more than doubled.
Re: Autodesk Software Goes Subscription-Only in 2016
by: Serge Jonnaert - CADREBEL
August 26, 2015 - 3:44pm
Thank you for reiterating that perpetual license ownership is still more cost-advantageous. Companies that have been using AutoCAD for many years should extend that same period out into the future and ask themselves how much they will have paid 10/15/20 years from now under the new subscription-only model. A true cost comparison would also remove the 'forced support' at $545/year. Traditionally, software companies have offered software upgrades at 20~50% of the new licenses price without requiring an annual support subscription. The market is changing too. There are many viable CAD alternatives that offer robust functionality and support, and in many cases desirable features that are not found in AutoCAD, e.g. BricsCAD Pro starts at $650 for a perpetual license and the optional upgrades are always reasonably priced. As it relates to this discussion, it amounts to realizable savings of more than $3.5K over 3 and $6.8K over 5 years per seat. For large engineering and drafting bureaus this can result in major budget savings.
Re: Autodesk Software Goes Subscription-Only in 2016
by: Real CAD
August 27, 2015 - 3:46am
As a smaller developer of CAD software ourselves this is definitely an opportunity to gain a little more market share. We have already been contacted by disgruntled AutoCAD and Inventor users who don't like that the rules have changed - Alternatives to AutoDesk products are aplenty with RealCAD, BricsCAD, IronCAD and many more all offering similar abilities or greater levels of productivity. If nothing else it will be interesting to watch both how the market reacts and how AutoDesk tackles any resistance to its policies.
Re: Autodesk Software Goes Subscription-Only in 2016
by: Tifa
August 27, 2015 - 10:52pm
Last month, I have received 2 emails (followed later by 3 phone calls) from 2 different Autodesk account managers - with slightly different wording - both warning me of the upcoming “drastic change”, then encouraging me to - and I quote - “STOCKPILE” perpetual licenses before 31 January 2016, complemented with a 20% limited time offer!!!
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