Forgotten step-brother today leading the way
For many years, AutoCAD LT was the Embarrassment of Autodesk. Not because it was the cheapest, most underpowered desktop CAD program offered by the company. But because LT was its best selling software, outselling AutoCAD, the supposed-to-be "market leader," 3 to 1 -- and so this was something Autodesk became loathe to publicize.
Not that Autodesk didn't try to discourage sales. It upped the price from $499 to $1,200 -- and 2x even higher in unlucky countries like New Zealand. It imposed severe limitations on feature sets and programming.
(AutoLISP does work with LT. Autodesk included the popular programming language during the beta of the original version, but pulled it just before LT was released by swapping in a dummy alisp.dll file. Explanation at the time was that dealers didn't want to lose revenues with a cheap, powerful alternative to the 6x more-expensive AutoCAD.)
So it came as a surprise to market watchers when Autodesk ceo Carl Bass just a couple of weeks ago waxed eloquent over AutoCAD LT. Why the sudden love-in?
AutoCAD LT continues to lead all desktop subscription products, which is important because LT has historically been our highest volume product and represents the biggest opportunity to convert non-subscribing LT customers.
LT was always seen by Autodesk as the gateway drug: get new users hooked on LT, then bombard them with upsell offers to "real" CAD. Now, however, AutoCAD LT has become Autodesk's guinea pig for its bet-the-company, subscription-only future. Mr Bass again:
We're quickly approaching the end of this fiscal year when we stop selling new perpetual licenses for stand-alone products.
We started the process in Q2 when we stopped selling new perpetual licenses for AutoCAD LT in Australia and New Zealand. The results were very much in line with our expectations. We experienced a surge of buying perpetual LT licenses prior to the cut-off date...
We'll start by ending sales of perpetual licenses of AutoCAD LT in APAC [Asia-Pacific], with the exception of Japan at the end of this quarter.
Next... we'll announce the date for when we'll stop selling new perpetual licenses for suites, but I'll say that we are accelerating our plans that substantially move up that date.
But there is a fly in the ointment, and it As we've seen over the years in adopting new technology and business models, Japan has never been the leader, and I don't expect that to change.is Japan. Reports Mr Bass:
And I think we mentioned the one place that we're nervous, which is Japan, which is certainly meaningful in terms of LT...
...people [in Japan] who have perpetual licenses and maintenance can continue to stay that way.
The second thing that's interesting is what I'm seeing which is more anecdotal at this point: there is a split in the Japanese market. So like these new products like Fusion, which is a cloud-based CAD product, we're having dramatically better results in Japan. We're just releasing a Japanese version of the product because it's been so successful, and that kind of runs counter to what we're seeing in the mainstream.
I am sure many Autodesk users wish they has the option of living in sensible Japan right now, so that they won't have to be forced unwillingly off perpetual licenses. At $360, just one year of LT now costs nearly as much as the perceptual license originally cost. Autodesk loves it.
Autodesk's pricing comparison at autodesk.com/store/autocad-lt generously assumes user routinely update every other year