by Roopinder Tara, Tenlinks.com
Part 4: Autodesk's Strategy is No-Strategy
Maybe for the millionth time Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, is questioned about the strategy of giving away software, or making it really cheap. The analyst who asked this question at the media Q&A session no doubt considered such a strategy suicidal. It was much easier to understand an Autodesk that sold AutoCAD, Inventor, Revit or some other vertical product that sold for thousands of dollars and provided huge margins. But now Autodesk is as likely to brag about software that is downloaded by the millions but sells for 99 cents. Worse, the apps from Autodesk Labs are all free.
Carl danced around the question and did not directly answer it. The polite analyst did not press the issue. The timidity of our industry's press usually bothers me. It took me a while before I realized that in his own way, Carl actually was providing the strategy.
I remembered reading about Google, which on top of all its popular success has also achieved immense financial success as a publisher. Almost all its revenue is derived from advertising, something that did not initially occur to its founders and is missing from Google's business plan. All Google originally wanted to do was to become wildly popular, i.e. make something so good, so useful, so indispensible that people get hooked. The financial success that followed was a a happy accident.
Autodesk is a very profitable company. Last quarter it made about $550 million, almost all of it from its professional products. $70 million of it was profit. That is a lot of money to experiment with different products for consumers with the hopes that one, two or more will be a runaway hit, creating millions -- maybe billions-- of devoted fans who may do anything from pay a buck or two to upgrade to a professional product. Who knows?
No strategy appears to the Autodesk's strategy for now. Ingratiate yourself with the public, then wait for money to fall into your lap. Popularity first, profit second. Like Google.
Part 5: Tuesday's Hits and Misses
For the 2nd day of AU, we were treated to a variety of presentations, from a morning keynote to (new this year) an Innovation Forum. Here are some of the hits and misses:
Sir Ken Robinson: "The Internet is rewiring our brains." There's proof that we read the New York Time print version slower and and retain more than with the Web version. Sir Robinson thinks this is due to the distractions on the web page, like hyperlinks.
Just don't kill each other. "If we all live like Rwandans, the Earth can support 15 billion. If we all live like North Americans, it can support 1.5 billion." Thanks to Sir Ken Robinson, again, for recognizing the true cause of all our troubles is us, but who has the tact to not make us feel bad about it.
3D show and tell. Louise Leakey, descendant of the famed paleontologist Richard Leaky, who made 3D models of the bones of our ancestors so we can all have access to it. She may have used Project PhotoFly for it (now renamed 123D Catch). Teachers can make life size models of Lucy's skull and repeat 30 times that being buried for a million years does not turn bones to plastic.
Corporate conscience: VP Amar Hanspal appears truly saddened at the thought of a child getting sick every 6 seconds because of lack of clean drinking water.
What about that child? Consecutive VPs drool over booming middle classes in emerging markets and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China). One says we are all connected all that time. I don't think they have tried connecting a corporate office in Rwanda or a guest house in Kolkata.
Random comparisons. The number of microprocessors produced last year was greater than the grains of rice produced
And why are we doing this? Autodesk CTO Jeff Kowalski holds up a petri dish full of E. coli bacteria that smells like bananas. Because we can, does that mean we should? I try to remember any experiment with nature that hasn't backfired.
[Reprinted by permission from CAD Insider.]