Announcement from Autodesk


AutoCAD is kind of like “Kleenex” or “Coke”. Even if you use some other software for drafting or design, AutoCAD is in such widespread use that its name has become synonymous with CAD in general.

That’s why when I received this announcement in the mail a couple of weeks ago it hit me pretty hard. Like it or not, the default for most 2D industrial formats is the DWG. I have used AutoCAD since about 1996, when I migrated up from another Autodesk product, Autosketch. Currently I have AutoCAD LT 2012 and Autodesk Inventor, which serves most of my drawing needs.

The letter from Autodesk reads as follows:

End of sales of new individual perpetual licenses

Dear Autodesk customer,

Because you are a valued customer, I want to be sure you’re aware that Autodesk is gradually transitioning new software purchases to subscription-based options only. These changes, which we first announced in February, are being introduced to help Autodesk provide simplified product management and deployment, and make it easier to deliver new tools and technology.

In the first phase of this transition, after January 31, 2016, sale of new perpetual licenses for individual products will be discontinued and will only be available via pay-as-you-go subscription options.

You will, however, be able to continue using your existing perpetual licenses. For your software that is on Autodesk Maintenance Subscription, you can stay up-to-date and retain access to your maintenance benefits by keeping your Maintenance Subscription current.

Most individual products are affected by this change; examples include AutoCAD, AutoCAD LT, and 3ds Max. The full list, along with additional information, is available at

(More sales-y stuff here)

Thank you for your continued use of Autodesk software. The way the world is designed and made is changing, and we are excited and honored you’ve chosen Autodesk to explore the future of making things. We look forward to providing you even better products and services for years to come.

Yours truly,

Vice President, Customer Engagement

A few things I’d like to point out in this letter. In the first paragraph “…help Autodesk provide simplified product management and deployment” I’m not sure that keeping the existing perpetual license software available adds any real overhead to the company. I read this as “make more money for Autodesk”. There are a lot of us out here that never need support for anything; while AutoCAD is an important part of what I do, I pretty much use it the same way I always have.

“You will, however, be able to continue using your existing perpetual licenses.” Gee, thanks. I thought you might hack into my computer and disable the software I paid for thinking it would always work.

“The way the world is designed and made is changing, and we are excited and honored you’ve chosen Autodesk to explore the future of making things”. Hmm. While I’ve noticed a lot of changes over my lifetime, the way the world is designed and made doesn’t appear to have changed. I also question whether they are really that excited or honored about my individual license of AutoCAD.

My Allen-Bradley PLC programming licenses were sold with two different options. I could have purchased it under the integrator program where I get all of the software for a single price (about $7000 initial cost, but with a recurring $4000 fee yearly to keep it current) or by purchasing the individual licenses I need. Under my existing agreement, I have a perpetual license for my A-B software, but if I want to continue receiving upgrades to the software I have to pay about $1000 a year or much more per license if I let the support agreement lapse. Since I use my A-B software a lot in my work, I don’t mind staying current with my “support” agreement, even though I never call them for support.

AutoCAD is a different story. I go many months at a time without using it or even opening drawings. To pay a recurring fee for something that doesn’t pay for itself makes no sense.

For the next few years this probably won’t affect me. I can continue to use my software as I have been until it can no longer be installed on new operating systems. With virtual machines that may not even be a problem. But what happens when I need to open/modify drawings from customers that used a newer version? At some point I expect this to become an issue; it may even be a planned part of Autodesk’s strategy.

I use a lot of different software packages that could take this same path. Allen-Bradley, Siemens, Microsoft, Cognex, Automation Direct, Wonderware, WordPress, and the list goes on… If they all started going this route business could get very expensive. Software could suddenly stop working until you renew it via online payment; I had an A-B license expire years ago on an employee’s computer while he was onsite; this ended up costing a lot of time and headaches. So as you can tell, I’m not a huge fan of subscription-based licenses.

What do you think? Is this just a ploy to make a little more profit or are there valid reasons to not have perpetual licenses for software?


Electrical Engineer and business owner from the Nashville, Tennessee area. I also play music, Chess and Go.

3 Comments on “Announcement from Autodesk

  1. I just received this email, and am completely shocked at the decision. Hence I had to google and make sure I am not the only one! (:

    It was refreshing to see the first article I open reference Rockwell and Siemens, as I am in a similar situation. I am slowly being forced towards having to pick up a TIA license, but am dreading it. Same problem with Studio5000 last year. It is frustrating to have to buy these software and subscribe to keep them updated. What I find criminal is Rockwell requiring a subscription contract to access the knowledge base. Worst is being on plant floor and opening up software only to find you can’t access it. Thankfully Rockwell gives a grace period. With Siemens I have had corrupt license files and unable to open WinCC with machine down during production. Fun!

    I imagine you are in a similar business, controls, where the projects can vary and there are often long periods where I don’t need autoCAD, Inventor, Step7, RSlogix, GXworks. To be paying for them as a recurring cost easily will become too expensive and unnecessary.

    Thankfully I can still use my 2013 Autodesk license, but it is a matter of time.

  2. Since I’m a skeptic, I’d say it’s all about getting a continuous revenue stream without having to try (unlike the perpetual license/upgrade model, where the company has to convince you to upgrade).

    Also, I don’t consider merely putting software “in the cloud” (see Onshape) to be a big improvement. I prefer the Eagle PCB model: perpetual license, perpetual support, free minor upgrades, and major upgrades only about every two years. For electrical schematics, Radica Electra has similar licensing.

    To be fair to Autodesk, their software suites were a very good deal if you liked the software (e.g. Product Design Suite with AutoCAD, AutoCAD Electrical, Inventor, Alias, 3DS Max, and more), and Autodesk Fusion 360 is one of the more interesting cloud CAD programs at $300/year.

    I recommend trying out AutoCAD clones; there are a least three free ones (TurboCAD,DoubleCAD, NanoCAD, and DraftSight), plus a number of reasonably priced alternatives such as BrisCAD. I have a list ( )and Ralph Grabowski’s WorldCAD Access ( ) has pretty good coverage CAD coverage.

    I’m currently using DraftSight to do schematics; since most of the schematic is in the PCBs, it’s working out OK (the machine has more cables than individual wires).

    On the good side, because of competition from free software, the price of mainstream programming tools has been coming down. It’s amazing what Microsoft is giving away (e.g. Visual Studio Express Edition).

  3. Autodesk has been talking about this for a long time, but I guess they forgot to inform their customers until the last minute.

    The MCAD companies are just as bad as the big automation companies. At least Autodesk used to give patches to all, even those off maintenance (although that policy is now dead, since everyone is “on maintenance”). Solidworks won’t even do that.

    Mainstream and embedded programmers have it lucky 🙂

    At least there are good alternatives for AutoCAD (with BrisCAD probably being the best commercial choice) and other desktop software (Adobe, Word, etc); with PLCs you don’t have a choice.