AU 2015 pregame: what I want to know

Nov 30, 2015 | Hot Topics

It’s the week after Thanksgiving so it must be time for Autodesk University, the almost-week-long festival of all things Autodesk with a lot of maker thrown in. This year is special, in that a lot of things are changing for Autodesk’s business and for the business of software sales in general. As I talk to as many people as I can, here’s what I’m hoping to learn:

  • Autodesk’s Q3 report (I know, I know … I’ll write it up soon) showed that the number of added subscribers was lower than expected. There could be a lot of reasons: some customers/geos/industries don’t like the idea of subscriptions; what is Autodesk doing to win them over? What are resellers telling customers about subscriptions — how are they positioning this new offering? Is this about money, about capability, or resistance to something that’s perceived as different?
  • Autodesk is big now, with far more capability than ever before. It serves manufacturing, AEC, civil, entertainment and many subspecialties within those bigger groups. How does it articulate what it is and does to people who still consider it the AutoCAD company?
  • Cloud cloud cloud. The term often confuses more than it helps. How does Autodesk explain its offerings in a cloud context, and how do customers think about adding this to their arsenal? And, where possible, separate this from the subscriptions discussion.
  • Acquisitions have been a huge part of the Autodesk story for years. Many of the added technologies were said to be crucial for Autodesk at the time of purchase –think Delcam and HSMWorks bringing Autodesk into CAM, or the string of CAE companies– but have somewhat disappeared from view since. What’s up with these businesses, their products and users — and are those users here? Do they feel they have a voice?
  • Fusion 360, BIM 360, PLM 360, Autodesk 360 … These are Autodesk’s future — but the vast majority of users aren’t there yet. What’s up with Inventor, Revit, AutoCAD, etc.? I think Autodesk is trying hard to both move forward with the new while not losing the user base for the older products, but how successful is this? Can they (should they?) wait, or will we see a bit of tough love –like Microsoft finally pulling the plug on Windows XP– in a couple of years? How is Autodesk moving customers forward? What resistance is it seeing?
  • The competitive landscape is tougher than ever, as Autodesk continues to branch out to new areas like IoT and 3D printing. I’m betting we’ll hear a lot about those two topics and I want to hear management talk about how they see Autodesk as different, and learn more about the value its products bring that others perhaps don’t.
  • What’s up with Reality Computing, Autodesk’s catchall for reality capture/processing technology? I met a lot of great thinkers at the REAL event in February, all looking at these technologies and their possibilities; what real business use cases have emerged? Who’s making money with Reality Computing, and how?
  • Autodesk is trying an awful lot of new stuff already but CTO Jeff Kowalski usually introduces a couple of new ideas during the keynote — I’ll be interested to learn what he and his team are thinking about and working on.

That’s a lot to fit into a couple of (very long) days. But I’m game and am gonna try. We start tomorrow with a construction industry launch –no idea what to expect there– and move on to the corporate keynote session at 10:30AM PT. Last year, many sessions were streamed live; check to see if the sessions you want to listen in on will be available. A horde of people will also be live tweeting the event at #AU2015, if you’d like to follow along.

Image of the (indoor) canal at the Venetian/Palazzo, Las Vegas, taken by Monica Schnitger.