Opinion by Ralph Grabowski
An industry insider alerted me a day ahead of the March 22 release of AutoCAD 2019 that AutoCAD would not longer be available standalone, but only as part of a suite. I ran that tip on the @upfrontezine Twitter feed, emphasizing it was a rumor. It turned out to be somewhat true:
With the so-called 2019 release, there is no more stand-alone AutoCAD per se -- except for enterprise-license customers, and the free 30-day demo version. You now get AutoCAD 2019 plus an optional number of vertical add-ons for one price.
With R2019, software-rental firm Autodesk raises the price of AutoCAD's annual subscription fee by 7% -- to US$1,575/year. (In places like new Zealand, the price is nearly double, NZ$2,866, and not the $2,049 it should be at the current exchange rate.) This makes good the promise ADSK executives made to Wall Street to keep raising the subscription cost to customers, not just this year but for years to come.
Autodesk softened the blow of the higher cost by throwing in nearly all AutoCAD add-ons -- now renamed "toolsets." Combining AutoCAD + toolsets = "One AutoCAD," which to me sounds like the "one godhead." Keeping up the new-name meme, Autodesk's FAQ insists the name actually is "AutoCAD including specialized toolsets." See https://knowledge.autodesk.com/support/autocad/learn-explore/caas/sfdcarticles/sfdcarticles/Only-One-AutoCAD-Frequently-Asked-Questions.html?st=one%20autocad%20FAQ
Some enthusiast sites are saying that all add-ons are included in this new bundle, but not: the most notable exception is Civil 3D. Perhaps instead it should have be named "Nearly One AutoCAD."
The way it works is that if you are on maintenance or subscription, you can download AutoCAD 2019, and then if you are on subscription you can also download the add-ons you need.
Autodesk says that each toolset is the same as the full add-on. Nevertheless, existing subscribers stay with their current vertical add-on until they specifically request Autodesk to switch them to One AutoCAD. If they are the same, then the option to switch is a puzzle. Collections will continue to be available.
Bugs in the Ointment
Users attempting to download the update suffered from not only from update problems severe enough to keep them from their livelihoods, but also reported not being able to find the download in the first place. (As I write this, Bing has no knowledge of AutoCAD 2019's existence on autodesk.com.) This is not a good testament to the much-vaunted cloud, which Autodesk executives have repeatedly given the God-like attribute of being infinite.
There are other bugs in the ointment:
MacOS users do not have toolsets, except through Windows emulators; toolsets run on Windows only. MacOS subscribers nevertheless pay the extra 7%, while enduring a CAD package that still only does an estimated 75% of the Windows version.
It is not clear to me if drawings can travel back and forth between vertical add-ons (say, AutoCAD Architecture) and toolsets. One source suggested to me that once the drawing is touched by a toolset, it cannot be edited further by an add-on. I have not, however, found a definitive declaration on this crucial point.
Update: It appears the incompatibility is between toolsets, according to a FAQ sent to me. If you work on a drawing with the plant toolset, you cannot simply switch to the architecture one: you have to save and (possibly) close the drawing, open it again, and then start using the architecture toolset.
Toolsets cannot be shared between users. If you, an architect, download the Plant 3D toolset, the plant design specialist in your office cannot use it. He has to have his own One AutoCAD license and do his own download.
The Competition Comments
Autodesk's competitors have traditionally been hesitant to take advantage of Autodesk's missteps surrounding subscriptions, but this time the #1 AutoCAD competitor was quick to react. Graebet Gmbh ceo Wilfried Graebert had this to say:
It looks to me like Autodesk made an announcement driven by the stock exchange, and not by the interest of their users. Custom entities created by each vertical cannot be edited by the others.
Each vertical aims at different professions: You can't expect that an architect will deal with mechanical design nor that a mechanical designer will understand how the GIS world works. Unlike with the Adobe suite, each user will only use one product, and doesn't want to pay more to get the others. At the end it feels like a price increase hidden behind a marketing message.
The accumulation of negative messages, year after year, is alarming for the AutoCAD user. At Graebert, we see an increasing number of Autodesk's large customers and partners coming to us because they lost trust in Autodesk, and want to experience our Trinity concept.
With this Autodesk announcement, we will work on a new campaign to show that CAD users with DWG files have a vital alternative with ARES. As you can see, the announcement also is an attack on those surviving Autodesk partners that are competing with the new vertical toolsets. We started actively working with developers to facilitate the migration of industry-leading solutions from AutoCAD to ARES.
What Ralph Grabowski Thinks
With 14 million AutoCAD users not moving to subscription, the company keeps publishing deals that might entice the reluctant. (The number comes from Autodesk: they estimate 12 million pirates + roughly two million legal customers.) By throwing in nearly everything but the ginzu knives, Autodesk is hoping the new value-proposition is compelling.
It won't be enough, because the company is not giving these customers what they want: the flexibility to choose between permanent, permanent+maintenance, or subscription -- as do most other CAD software firms.
The ginzuknife-like offer makes Autodesk look desperate, and cheapens the perceived value of vertical add-ons. I can imagine future offers: "And if you order today, we'll throw in Inventor for just $1/year more (plus shipping, handling, and applicable fees and taxes)."
One AutoCAD devalues products produced by third-party developers to Apple Store-like levels. With this change, Autodesk has declared the value of AutoCAD Architecture + AutoCAD Mechanical + AutoCAD Electrical + AutoCAD Map 3D + AutoCAD MEP + AutoCAD Raster Design + AutoCAD Plant 3D to be $105 -- fifteen bucks each.
It's no wonder pirates don't value software enough to pay for it.