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Autodesk Will Only Sell Subscription Licenses for Desktop Products After February 1, 2016

Autodesk announces cutoff date for availability of desktop perpetual licensing.

Autodesk announces cutoff date for availability of desktop perpetual licensing.

Price comparison chart Autodesk uses to illustrate that subscription is a better alternative for customers.

Price comparison chart Autodesk uses to illustrate that subscription is a better alternative for customers.

Autodesk is drawing a line in the sand, a definitive cutoff for the availability of perpetual desktop licenses.

“New commercial seats of most standalone desktop software products will be available only by Desktop Subscription beginning February 1, 2016,” the company announced today. The move is part of is transition to a subscription-only model.

Andrew Anagnost, sr. VP and industry strategist for Autodesk, remarked, “The move to cloud, mobile, and social platforms for software companies is as profound as the move from mainframe to desktop computers. If we want to be relevant to our customers in the new world, we have to be moving toward a pure cloud-based, subscription-based company.” He went so far as to declare, “All successful software companies in the future will be cloud companies.”

Autodesk, best known for its flagship design and drafting software AutoCAD, once used perpetual desktop licenses as the standard approach for its design, engineering, and animation software titles. But in 2009, Autodesk began experimenting with running cloud-hosted CAD program remotely from thin clients and browsers.

Project Twitch, a technology preview at the time, let you remotely run Autodesk Inventor, AutoCAD, and Autodesk Revit Architecture from a thin client, without installing the software locally. (Read “AU 2009: Cloudy with a Chance of Twitch,” December 2009.)

In early 2012, Autodesk launched its PLM offerings under the PLM 360 brand, delivering them as SaaS (software as a service) subscriptions. In late 2013, Autodesk introduced new licensing models, such as monthly rental option, for some of its titles. These preceding moves prepare the company for what it ultimately wants to implement — cloud-hosted software offerings, delivered as on-demand subscriptions.

February 1, 2016, marks the end of “perpetual licenses for standalone desktop products,” clarified Anagnost. “The suites [such as Building Design Suite, Product Design Suite, Entertainment Creation Suite] will continue to be available as standalone desktop products for some time, but that won’t last forever.”

Customers with perpetual licenses purchased prior to the cutoff date can continue to use their products with support from Autodesk. If these customers are on maintenance contract, Autodesk is expected to keep their perpetual desktop titles current with updates.

The cloud-hosted subscription model allows Autodesk to deliver incremental updates soon as they become available, Anagnost pointed out. Customer preferences and customizations can also be stored online, he added. Furthermore, he explained that over time, perpetual license with maintenance costs more than subscription (see chart above).

Utility agencies, architecture firms, and manufacturers that have built their workflows and processes around Autodesk products would have one-year lead time to prepare for the transition.

Whereas some rivals offering rental and subscription software demand annual commitment, Anagnost said Autodesk subscriptions are month to month, with the option to cancel anytime.

“Paying month to month costs more [over time] than annual subscription, but we’re finding that some customers stay on that — 12, 13, 14 months, and so on — because it’s just better for them,” said Anagnost, “because, when the project stream dries up, they have the option to cancel.”

Upon cancellation of the subscription, the desktop software becomes inactive in some cases and becomes viewing-only products in others.

With a long history of desktop product sold under perpetual licenses, Autodesk currently has more customers on perpetual desktop licenses than subscription licenses, but the company expects the ratio to shift, eventually leading to subscription only.

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About Kenneth

Kenneth Wong has been a regular contributor to the CAD industry press since 2000, first an an editor, later as a columnist and freelance writer for various publications. During his nine-year tenure, he has closely followed the migration from 2D to 3D, the growth of PLM (product lifecycle management), and the impact of globalization on manufacturing. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst, Computer Graphics World, and Manufacturing Business Technology, among others.


  1. Thanks for the advanced warning. I had considered upgrading our AutoCAD platform that compliments our use of SolidWorks for design, but we’ll definitely pass on the cloud-centric subscription model and just stick with their legacy software as long as we can make it work. This one-size-fits-all pricing is simply impossible for us to justify for continued use. It would never pay for itself in our small business.

  2. Hi Tim,
    there’s is lots of anger at the moment at autocad. You are not alone. See this:


  3. Ok Autodesk, so what happens when your server crashes? What happens when my internet is unavailable? This is the most ridiculous idea to ever come out of your company and I for one will be moving to Bentley.

  4. ridiculus ideas created by ridiculus people.. what happens when institutions / R& D labs wants to use ur product.. so u want people to waste time and effort by connecting online and subscribe…
    or does auto cadd wants to snoop on all the ideas available on net..

    very good retrograde buissness effort…
    we were planning to buy ur software thank you for making that we are making mistakes..

  5. Autodesk is criminal as far as I’m concerned. The prices they charge for their software borders on the insane. AutoCAD should cost no more than $300. Same for ever other program they use.

  6. Wow. So the justification to buy this subscription service is that “when your project stream dries up” you save money. In other words, you lay off staff, your business is horrible, buy hey, that overpriced subscription that put you on the brink can be trimmed a little, and maybe you break even with your Autodesk service, if you were so lucky as to lay off staff and lose business… WOW.

    Thanks, Autodesk… Did a little dandruff fall off your dry scalp?

    We are looking forward to Chapter 11 for Autodesk, when their client stream dries up. Believe me, it’s the majority of architects, most of whom are reticent users of Autodesk. And not one of us is brand loyal, so good luck with your corporate tactics. Investors be warned – it won’t pan out…

    Architecture was never a business to profit off – ask any architect.

  7. that you no longer offer perpetual license very likely just cost you a commercial sale as I have been working on my company to upgrade from 2004 (yes, that dinosaur version) but when they find they can’t buy it perpetual they are not going to bite. Furthermore, I was going to buy a personal copy in order to work at home but now must rethink this as I do not have the flexible funds to pay once a month/ year into my retirement in 10 years whereas a one time expense of a couple of thousand now would have carried me into retirement and beyond (I would have used this to do hobby work as well) but could not justify the cost without the work related income to back it

    This has got to be the worst company decision in history.

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