Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
Think computing – mobile, social and the cloud
April 12th, 2012 by Susan Smith
A bevy of new “consumer” customers fueled by the mobile, social and cloud platforms may be behind Autodesk’s financial success for 2011.
The Autodesk Media Summit held in San Francisco two weeks ago trumpeted news of the latest Autodesk 2013 product suites and products launch. CEO Carl Bass opened the Summit with some business results, big trends, followed by specific product information by Amar Hanspal. There is a video and partial transcription available on AECCafe Today
To reiterate what was covered in the opening keynote, last year Autodesk finished 2011 with revenue of about $2.2 billion. Bass said that in forecasting the economy he had predicted they would grow by about 10 percent last year, “I got a lot of grief from financial community because they didn’t think we could grow by 10 percent,” he said. “People were still worried about what going on with financial matters in the U.S. as well as in Europe. There was a sense the financial world was coming to the end – as it turns out we finished the year with 14 percent. Business was robust around the world, particularly a resurgence of economy in the U.S.”
Given Autodesk’s diversification across geographies, and industries, they represent where the world economy is going, according to Bass. “75 percent of our business is outside the U.S., with representation in media, manufacturing, architecture and construction. We are a proxy for overall GDP.”
“About two years we started talking publicly about what we thought was a big change in computing platform,” said Bass. “What we outlined, is a computing platform that became one of mobile, social and cloud. A lot of people didn’t know what we’re saying, or they said, ‘everybody’s doing that,’ but we were talking about a fundamental shift in the way people do their work. From the very beginning we thought this was the most important shift we’ve seen since the world moved from mainframes to PCs. The entire computing landscape is being redefined.”
He noted that people used to go to work and sit at a PC or Mac, and if they were out of the office, they would say they would email something when they returned to the office. Now they don’t need to do that.
There are over 2 million visitors to Autodesk 360, Autodesk’s cloud offering available via subscription. This year is Autodesk’s 30th anniversary and they have about 12 billion legal users of our software. It took 28 years to get to that first 10 -12 million users, according to Bass.
AutoCAD WS, Autodesk’s mobile offering, was launched less than 2 years ago, and there are now 7 million users accessing it completely differently, on Android, iOS devices and the Web.
“What’s interesting to me about it, is the usage. Now the run rate is 300,000 files are being uploaded to WS every week, 1800 every hour, 30 files every minute,” Bass said. “This proves the point of how people are changing the way they work.”
No doubt this usage signals a shift in the way Autodesk products are being used. Although the company still has a significant user base consisting of vanilla AutoCAD users and users of their industry specific products, the advent of mobile visitors has drawn in another type of customer that Autodesk didn’t know was even interested. Their Sketchbook, for example, runs on PC and MAC, web, Android, iOS, and has attracted 10 million downloads to date in two years. They have not had this many downloads of any of their professional products over the past 20 years.
“We’re averaging 150,000 downloads a week,” said Bass. How people interact with their communities has changed dramatically.
Even more popular than the mobile downloads is Autodesk Instructables community, comprised of do it yourself and makers. The number of unique visitors on Instructables last month was 13 million.
This interest is larger than the number of visitors on Pinterest, and on Instagram and Foursquare put together.
Pixler had 21 million unique monthly visitors.
Pixlr o matic, a group of users interested in creating things, had 1 million downloads in the first 10 days.
In addition to this is the cloud, “We are now able to do in 15 minutes what it once took hours to do with the help of the cloud,” said Bass. “What would you do differently if you could get answers a lot faster?”
The cloud extends far beyond the new “consumer type” customers. Bass assured everyone that their R&D efforts are not only geared toward those non-professional customers. Yet he cautioned everyone not to think of the new computing platforms as “toys,” because they are responsible in this case, for a paradigm shift in the way we are thinking about computing.
Bass said that computing is now centered around where you are, with the combination of mobile, cloud and social all in one place. This will open up entirely new ways of working.
When Amar Hanspal, senior vice president of Information Modeling and Platform Products Group got up and talked about the Autodesk 2013 Product Suites, the audience realized that Autodesk has been shaping their products for this new “suites” approach for some time. Although suites were introduced last year, the vision is becoming clearer, more crystallized, addressing the way buildings are being designed nowadays, with an eye to performing for an energy footprint. The building industry is borrowing from the manufacturing industry and we’re seeing more 3D printing and other manufacturing processes used in the building industry. Analysis is now part of the design process. Heavy competition for projects has driven architects, planners and engineers to showcase products much like the entertainment industry showcases upcoming movies.
Autodesk “suites” present workflows between the suites that are both easy to use and cloud centric.
A brief look at each suite:
Entertainment Creation Suite –takes the concept of the one click workflow to the next level. You can see the effects of Maya and Motion Builder in one another.
“This came into being with the Avatar movie, now every user of this suite can use this,” said Hanspal. “We take what we learn with the cutting edge customer and give it to everybody.”
Product Design Suite – The initial sketches all the way to rendered presentation are linked within the suite. Launchpad lets you switch between applications. There is new interoperability between Inventor and AutoCAD that takes view creation from Inventor and links it with the documentation tools of AutoCAD.
Building Design Suite – The architectural, structural and system tools are integrated into one suite. There is only one Revit now, and the customers can switch between the discipline they want to work in. “In a multidisciplinary firm they only have to be concerned with one deployment, the engineering design problem they’re solving, rather than having to manipulate a lot of different software packages,” said Hanspal. There is now synchronization between the Building Design Suite, Vault and Buzzsaw and better integration with Revit itself so that content is managed better.
Infrastructure Design Suite – This suite spans planning, designing, building and managing infrastructure and utility projects. Infrastructure Modeler offers upfront design option tools for analyzing project performance and visualization in dealing with stakeholders. BIM for Infrastructure is broadening that concept.
Within every suite AutoCAD is resident, and interoperates with all the modeling, presentation and other products. The company is committed to creating a better interface so that all products look the same, and elements work the same. Customized workflows can be created between the products.
All Autodesk’s Cloud services are called Autodesk 360 provided to subscription customers to allow collaboration and sharing and access to their own work wherever they may be.
Autodesk 360 is good at finding things, connecting people and information. There is the app store Autodesk Exchange App Store, which is now for Revit, Inventor, 3ds Max, as well as AutoCAD. The Cloud is also good at crunching numbers and problems as its lasting brain power can solve the most challenging design problems, and provide a series of answers.
Rendering services on the cloud are growing at 22 percent each month, and right now only support Revit and AutoCAD 3D, but will begin to support more data types such as Inventor.
Some years ago, Autodesk promised a blurring of boundaries between industry segments. The suites reflect some that effort with the way the suites are arranged, for example, architectural, structural and system tools all in one suite. Under the subscription umbrella, it may be possible to pull something like Autodesk Map or Civil 3D from the Infrastructure Design Suite and add it to the Building Design Suite, or bringing some products from the Building Design Suite into the Infrastructure Design Suite, as there may be interest in creating 3D cities at some point in the future.
At any rate, the way it’s set up seems open-ended, appealing to the do-it-yourself nature of the new audience, while at the same time addressing the loyal customer base who looks to Autodesk to provide building, analysis and product design solutions, and offering to both an ease-of-use and broad mobility that has not been possible before.