Three major topics emerged from Autodesk's analyst day, held at its Architecture, Engineering and Construction headquarters in Boston: Moving customers beyond 3D, Autodesk's focus on sustainability, and Autodesk Labs.
Over the years, the wide adoption of AutoCAD software has given rise to Autodesk's domination of the 2D space. In most instances, AutoCAD is still used synonymously with CAD around the world by engineers, architects and CAD novices. While the majority of Autodesk's customers use a mix of 2D and 3D tools, Autodesk's message at the Analyst Day on October 27 was loud and clear: we want customers to move from 2D to 3D, and beyond 3D to digital prototyping.
While 3D arguably provides higher accuracy of product representations, downstream efficiencies, and is certainly the avant-garde alternative to 2D, the value of 2D should not be underestimated as a medium for early stage innovation and collaboration across the value chain. The collective value of 2D and 3D was reinforced by Autodesk's own customer Mark Richey Woodworking. The company used Autodesk Inventor and Revit to design complex wood paneling for the Kauffman Performing Arts Center in Kansas City in 3D, which was then used for complex acoustic analysis; while 2D was used as a means to collaborate across the partner supply chain for construction. Autodesk clearly has strengths in supporting customers in utilizing the combination of 2D and 3D tools, and in its ability to provide transition, continuity and persistence of information across these dimensions, and we believe these are areas they must stay focused on.
Another theme of the Analyst Day (held in their LEED certified building) was Autodesk's commitment to sustainability. Autodesk explained how it was the only software provider on the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index in 2009, and in 2010 launched a Clean Tech Partner Program that enables companies engaged in developing environment friendly solutions to receive up to $150,000 worth of Autodesk software for $50. It showcased three of its participants --APTWater, Utility Scale Solar and Micromidas-- and each derived tremendous value from the products, especially when photo-realistic 3D drawings were the clincher for venture capital funding. Autodesk tools provide a lower barrier to entry for small startups, an easy user interface, access for cross-functional and geographically dispersed teams, and high quality products that work directly out of the box with little or no customization.
Also showcased was Autodesk's strategy to allow users to preview and test new delivery models and tools through Autodesk "Labs", which creates distinctive value for both Autodesk and its existing and potential customers. End-users can not only test-drive upcoming products and technologies, but also can suggest enhancements to help Autodesk increase new products' usefulness and usability. The Inventor Optimization Technology Preview (A Cloud Simulation Offering) is one such project that is helping Autodesk's end-users understand the benefits of simulation in real time without having to buy-in to cloud service. Using this service, end-users can run simulation on a large number of design configurations in parallel, without hardware constraints. Though the commercial availability and pricing of such services in the cloud remain undisclosed, the real time usage of such open services offered only by Autodesk Labs certainly provides them with a tangible competitive advantage.
Autodesk has strengths in supporting customers on 2D and also provides them with a clear and dependable transition to 3D and digital prototyping. To help understand these transitions, customers and prospects of Autodesk can test drive and fully evaluate products in the Labs environment. Interestingly, it is through Labs that customers will influence Autodesk's products and roadmap, and ultimately dictate the cadence of which they are ready to adopt 3D and go "beyond 3D" to digital prototyping.