Autodesk Moving to Rental-Only for Software
How a company made for artists is pushing a policy that promotes more starving artists instead of thriving artists
It's pretty much assured that anyone in the world that is exposed to any kind of 3D design software is aware of Autodesk Inc. The company develops a large array of the world's premier applications in multiple fields, including architecture, multimedia and engineering. If you've ever watched a TV show, seen a building in your city, played a video game, sat through a blockbuster film or browsed the Internet for more than an hour, the odds are good that you too have been exposed to creations that were brought to life with the aide of Autodesk's software.
It's a given that Autodesk employs some of the most brilliant people in this world. The company creates bad-ass tools.
I wish I could stop there. However, I cannot. Autodesk is also doing things that aren't good for people like me--freelance artists and small businesses. More importantly, I feel that the company is preparing to follow some of the recent marketing trends that are bad for the world economy. This trend was not started or caused by Autodesk. But the publicly traded company has made the decision to follow the trend because the analysts predict the best gains or stability for the company.
We're talking software rental.
At face value, the idea of software rental seems straight-forward enough. From a certain perspective, it might even be a no-brainer. Certainly, the move towards a rental model makes a lot of sense from the developer's side--which is one reason Adobe pushed this model onto the world in the last few years. Autodesk, like Adobe and others, is coming to the same conclusion about renting instead of selling--that they can make more money from the rental model.
If taken only from the point of view of the developers and distributors, the story could be over. But there are two sides to this story. The flip-side is the consumer. If the vendor is making more money on the same product sold to the same people, then it's given that the consumer (individually or as a group) is paying more. This, obviously, is not good for consumers. And when expanded past a single vendor/customer relationship to the general market, it has negative implications for the economy.
If every piece of software moves to rental-only model, then the market will see a shrink in the buying power of consumers. It's very similar to how increased taxes reduces buying power in the general public. When people are paying more money just to keep what they have, then they have a harder time expanding and growing.
For the artists, the ball has already started rolling. Adobe already made the move. Autodesk is now discussing this as the future. Autodesk must have recognized that consumers would not want this as their CEO originally stated that Autodesk was taking a different path than Adobe's forcefully pushing customers into the rental-only model. But that has now changed. Others like Corel are starting to offer rental services of their own.
I think that the publicly traded companies spend far too much time focused on the narrow, short-term approach to gains and immediate success, and not enough time considering long-term and widespread results. If the buying power of creatives diminishes, then this will effect the industry. There are always unintended consequences when you make drastic changes to systems that have complex feedback loops. One consequence could be that artists have less money to spend and start buying less diverse collections of software to accomplish their goals.
All I know for certain is that the rental-only model means that it costs more, over time, to keep your software current. It also puts the consumer at the absolute mercy of the vendor because a project dependent on files in a program will become inaccessible if the consumer stops renting. This can increase the odds that the vendor will lessen its focus on development. It also gives the consumer little recourse when the vendor increases price hikes. Already, the current rental price of 3ds Max is $125 per month. This is over twice the cost, annually, that I currently pay to upgrade and own my license to 3ds Max.
The Autodesk customer is a loser in this new model. The customer loses the rights to own the current version of the software they depend on; the customer loses the value of their dollar, as now she has less to spend in general because the cost of using the software has gone up; and the customer might be losing business, as she might be forced to increase fees to cover these new increased costs--and not all of the artists' clients are going to be willing to swallow increased fees.
I've already made a stand to boycott Adobe. If Autodesk chooses to go through with this proposed change, then I will also have to do the same to Autodesk. I'd rather not, as I personally want to continue paying the developers of 3ds Max for providing me with the best 3D application the world has known for decades. But I'm not going to become enslaved to something that I find to be unethical and myopic on several levels. Listen to your customers for once, Autodesk. If long-time advocates of your company turn their back on you, it will effect your bottom line. We don't mind for you to offer rental as an option to expand sales for those customers who find it beneficial; but for many of us, it just isn't acceptable. Don't make rental the only way for us to legitimately use your software.