Autodesk Investor Day

By Adena Schutzberg

Autodesk held its annual Investor Day last week.It's a day to show off to the investors and remind them why they do in fact hold stock in the company.It has a regular rhythm.First CEO Carl Bartz speaks and addresses the "big picture" then CTO Carl Bass looks at the number a bit, then several of the divisions tell their stories.The whole webcast (5 hours) is available online as are PDFs of the slides shown.

Bartz started the day by addressing a question she receives from time to time: What's changed in the years since Autodesk's founding? To preface her response, she noted that Autodesk is the second oldest PC software company, after Microsoft.She maintained that the company hasn't changed so much as the world around it has.As she put it, today's customers are facing a crisis of globalization, one that essentially means that if they can't do it faster, cheaper and better, they'll be out of business.This crisis, she pointed out, is far bigger than the Y2K crisis.

She then summarized Tom Friedman's recent article (reposted to a list) in the New York Times from his book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century.Friedman's argument, in short, is that while we know that the world in round, in fact, the new technologies have made it flat.That is, any edge one company had over another (including geography) was being "eaten away."

The big news from Carl Bass (and again later from Bartz) was that 2/3 of revenue is from new seats.Get it, that's new seats.The company looks at a second set of revenue streams, from upgrades and subscriptions, as one.And while not sharing exact numbers, Bass noted that overall revenue from the two are up.Moreover, upgrades are dropping while subscriptions are rising, just as Autodesk had hoped.Recall that subscriptions keep revenue nice and flat all year, while annual upgrades tend to "push" income to specific months of the year, causing among other things, ups and downs in the stock price.

Bass presented the product line in a few categories: 2D AutoCAD LT, 2D AutoCAD, vertical products, 3D products (including Civil3D and Revit, though I'm not sure if Map3D is included) and other (emerging businesses like Buzzsaw, consulting and I guess, location-based services).All areas are growing in the range of 40%.The fastest growing category, 3D, is rather small, but growing fast.Bass went on to detail how AutoCAD 2006 is aimed at the "every day" user and outlined the plan for sustainable growth for the company.

I wanted to listen to Chris Bradshaw speak about the Infrastructure Solutions Division (ISD), but the delivery of the webcast made it impossible to skip through to a specific presenter.I did however look at the slides which indicate that the ISD story hasn't changed since Autodesk University.The same issues were raised and many of the same users were profiled.The one new one, Garden City, California is the subject of an Autodesk webcast, now being touted by Autodesk's new advertising campaign.The quote from the city included in the slides was "Creating a mailing list of residents in a specific area used to take 20 minutes, but now it takes a minute.And our map counter clerks are instantly accessing the information they need to serve residents.We estimate that Autodesk MapGuide saves about $20,000 a year on just those two processes." Jim Deyo, GIS Coordinator for the city, said that.(I can't help but note that the very first GIS demo I ever saw, and the very first GIS demo I ever wrote, illustrated that exact functionality.)

The Q & A session "tape" was rather "crunchy" but I did tease out the discussion about competitors.On the GIS front the representative, I could not tell who it was, noted that ESRI is the big competitor and that Autodesk runs into Intergraph and MapInfo "a little." Autodesk competes with ESRI, he went on, by trying to put the functions people use every day in its products, leaving out the more complex, rarely used, tools.Finally, he noted that ESRI "doesn't know anything about CAD," "has no CAD technology" and the technology it does have is "notoriously imprecise."

I continue to be impressed with Autodesk's overall success as a business.I've still not seen the uptake or buzz or killer app from ISD that I've been expecting.I do give the team credit for staying on message.It seems new and existing users are getting what they need.Still, I'm curious about the next steps for ISD.

Published Wednesday, April 13th, 2005

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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