Microsoft's plan is to make desktop software, such as the next release of Office and Visio, dependent on server-based software, says Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols of eWeek.
"No word processor in this day and age should need anything from a server except a place to store files. No, the reason why Microsoft is making these moves is to force users to use its own server software, instead of Linux."
Now imagine that happening with a CAD system. In some ways, it is already happening. Autodesk continues to release server-based software -- check out the Revit Streaming Trial. I suspect they are used for demos primarily, and not production work. It's a baby-step.
Server-based software is a throw-back to the bad old days when all software ran on a central computer, and we had access only through dumb terminals (that was the technical term back then) by whatever permission was granted by the Computing Center Staff.
That's why IBM's PC of 1983 was revolutionary, for us as well as for IBM. It shifted the rights and responsbilities of computer use to each person. It took twenty years, but now PC hardware and software has reached the plateau: it's finally good enough.
"Good enough" frightens the computer industry, because it means financial malaise. If the corporations cannot convince us nicely to pay for upgrades, then the next attempt will be to enforce upgrade revenues. The tactic goes by a variety of terms: "subscriptions," "maintenance," "server-based," and "educating the customer".
Already a fair chunck of CAD software cannot be purchased (er, licensed) without being forced to also pay for one or two years of "maintenance."
Look out for it in the coming years; you will not be permitted to miss out.