How Much and What do You Get?Right now anyone wanting to use Autodesk software has to buy it with what is called a perpetual license. That means that when you purchase a license for Autodesk software it is yours perpetually, or forever. You can add a subscription license (a maintenance subscription) to that and pay a yearly fee for better customer support, access to premium services and software, and to have access to any updates to the licensed software if they are released during that year. Year after year this provides users with a less expensive method of getting the latest version of the software but at a high initial investment. Companies have to purchase a perpetual license and a years’ worth of maintenance subscription. This makes the initial purchase of the software quite expensive.
Autodesk’s rental plans give you the same benefits afforded maintenance subscription members but without the initial investment. There are monthly plans, quarterly plans and yearly plans available. Autodesk resellers can only sell customers the quarterly and yearly plans; the monthly plan is available from Autodesk’s website. If you use a Mac and purchase AutoCAD LT for Mac through Apple’s app store you will not be able to purchase it (or any Autodesk software) on a rental plan.
Nearly every design suite will be available on a rental plan but there will only be a few standalone products available this way. Right now there are three; 3DS Max, Maya, and Maya LT. If you only need AutoCAD you will have to get one of the Suites that include it. I’m not going to list the pricing for each suite but here is a link to Autodesk’s Rental Plan Pricing.
Who is this for and where did it come from?Autodesk’s new rental plans are meant for small businesses and hope to fill temporary software needs, project based work, and to provide options to better manage cash flow issues. All of these issues, said Autodesk, came from customer feedback. Autodesk said that they expect small business to be attracted to this type of payment plan more so than larger companies. Most companies already have established how many licenses of which software they need so the rental plan will not be a good fit for them, except for some special circumstance. Perhaps companies could use these rental plans to try out software before they invest heavily. Freelancers or contractual designers could rent the programs they need long enough to get the job done.
How Will This Affect Resellers?It won’t. Autodesk has a long standing relationship with its resellers and they obvious don’t want to damage it in any way. Resellers need to sell licenses in order to earn a living. They also supply support to their clients. The Rental plans provide the same support as does the maintenance subscriptions so resellers can use the opportunity to demonstrate why they are a great resource. Resellers won’t sell monthly plans just the quarterly and yearly plans. I imagine it would be tough for resellers to make a profit on the monthly plans. You could always purchase Autodesk software without going through a reseller so being able to purchase rental plans directly from Autodesk does not offer anything it really hasn't offered already. I don’t see resellers getting hurt by this instead it gives them another product to sell.
What Happens When My Rental Plan Expires?Before the plan expires, the plan manager will be alerted. If nothing happens and the plan is allowed to expire then your access to that software will end. Your files are still your files. The software will still reside on the workstation it is installed on it just won’t work. Monthly plans are set to automatically renew themselves but this default setting can be changed. Quarterly and yearly plans require action to be taken every plan ending date. The software will check its license every 14 days via an internet connection. If the license is valid nothing happens and you can keep working. If the check happens but there is no internet connection it will keep checking. If the internet is never turned on (trying to cheat the system) then the plan manager will be contacted. The software uses your Autodesk ID to authenticate itself. If your company has one ID then that ID will be used on each machine it is installed on. The license for that user on that machine will be established. The nice thing is that you can install the software on an unlimited number of machines, but you can only use it one user at a time. That means I can install AutoCAD (as an example) on my company desktop, laptop and home computer but I can only log on as myself on one machine at a time. Multiple users on the same machine may not work. I’m waiting on clarification from Autodesk about that. All rental Plans are standalone licenses. There are no network licenses available this way.
Some benefits that aren't easy to see right away.The rental plans offer different things to different people. One major aspect is that they chop up the cost of the software being used to smaller more manageable bits. That means it’s easier for companies to determine their actual cost involved. That better realization of costs means it’s easier to pass those costs down through to their clients. If I rent 3DS Max this month I have a small, set cost to access that tool. I used it on a project. I can bill the client for use of that tool. I know exactly what it cost me during that project to use that tool. If I purchased a perpetual license of 3DS Max two years ago I have no real way of knowing how much it cost me that month on that project. If you are very particular about your billing then this may offer some joy to you. The rental plans do not offer any monitoring tools to help users determine how much the software was used on a specific project, but Autodesk liked the idea.
Some Closing thoughts on Rental PlansMany companies are starting to offer rental plans for access to their software. Adobe has started a plan for their products that differs from Autodesk. Adobe’s approach is to provide access to everything for one flat monthly price. You cannot purchase a perpetual license of its latest version of its products. Microsoft started with a similar plan for Office 2013 but quickly added a perpetual license when its user base cried out in agony! Autodesk has the wisdom to see that most of their clients want and need a perpetual license. I asked Autodesk about the longevity of perpetual license now that rental plans are available and they said “Perpetual licensing will stay as long as it makes sense for our clients.” I asked how long rental plans will stay? Autodesk said “Rental plans are not an experiment. We (Autodesk) will evaluate them as we find what works and doesn’t work and make it better.”
It seems that the current state of licensing plans along with rental plans are all here to stay, for now.
I want to say thank you to Autodesk and to Jeff Wright for taking the time to talk with me to get a better understanding of these new rental plans.
The rental plans will be available on September 16th, 2013.