Autodesk’s Future Vision and Strategy: A Look at Autodesk University 2014
Sanjeev Pal posted on December 07, 2014 |

Autodesk held its annual user event this year at Las Vegas, Nevada from Dec 1 to Dec 4th. In its 22nd year AU 2014 hosted 10,000 attendees and over 700 classes.  Autodesk CEO Carl Bass and CTO Jeff Kowalski opened the event with their keynote addresses about the trends and forces shaping the future of making things.

Throughout the event, Autodesk made several announcements around its current tools and future strategy, these include :-

Learn from nature and adopt Generative Design using the  power of cloud – Jeff Kowalski, the CTO of Autodesk gave an outline of the future direction of   Autodesk’s development and design methodologies that will shape their software product line.  Jeff believes as soon products are designed and sent for manufacturing, they are already dead or dying because they can no longer adapt to their own environment.
Autodesk is looking at technology and design through the lens of nature and believes that the design process should be as a living process. Jeff said – “We’re developing a system that learns the same way we do… and the outcome is a tool that works in a lifelike manner and supports the way we solve problems naturally”. Autodesk wants to use the power of computer to exploit various streams of knowledge and let the system suggest solutions exploring all the positive possibilities, just as evolution take place in nature. Jeff said – “We need to stop telling the computer what to do and instead tell the computer what we want to achieve “

Sense, Respond and Collaborate (IoT) – Autodesk is not really thinking about the traditional internet of things (IoT)  but in terms of asking a question such as what these technologies enable for

us in terms of experience and value. This is interestingly confusing when it comes to its competitor Dassault Systèmes promoting 3D experience. Autodesk is relating to "experience" in terms of generatively designed autonomously constructed functional products such as self-constructing bridges that it is actively working to make a reality.   The term Internet of things as per Autodesk implies a false hope of an emergent experience, Autodesk thinks it should be called as community of things or a collection of individual entities to actively and purposefully work together.  Jeff said “Experiences don’t come from things it comes from you designers” and “The most enlightened things that we’ll design will be those that are actually capable of collaborating with each other to create new experiences for us.”

Autodesk A360 – Since last year A360 has had 60,000 active users and Autodesk gave free year worth of subscription to each attendee of Autodesk University this year.

Fusion 360 – Autodesk has gone beyond collaboration in cloud with Fusion360, modeling it behind GitHub or referring it to be Google Docs for designers. Carl Bass said “Fusion 360 is the world’s first cloud based mechanical CAD product”. It was also pointed out that Fusion 360 can now run in a  browser making it platform agnostic, so can its Tinkercad application, a cloud based 3D CAD tool for kids.

3D Printing (Software, Hardware and Materials) –With only 200k printer sold and nearly 75% of printed models being a failure, Autodesk believes that the reality of 3D printing has fallen short. Autodesk is heavily invested in 3D printing with it open source 3D printing platform Spark and its Ember printer that it started taking orders for at the event. A detail on Autodesk 3D printing strategy can be found on the blog.

Subscribe to Autodesk and Cloud – Cloud seems to be at the core of Autodesk’s future strategy and they believe that other engineering vendors will follow the path that Autodesk has taken with cloud. Autodesk also announced that it will be bringing “Subscribe to Autodesk” a single subscription price to access all Autodesk products later this year. Carl Bass indicated that they have not yet figured out the pricing and the products that would be factored in this offering but one should expect all the mass usage Autodesk products in this offering.  It was clear that Autodesk will not include all of its products especially the ones in media and entertainment, but it remains to be seen what Autodesk assumes to be mass usage products that will be offered with one subscription fee.  The intent seems to enable the casual as well as regular user to have access to a broader suite of Autodesk software with one subscription fee.

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