The future of professional design software may look a lot more like Netflix and Zipcar, judging from the rental licensing options just launched by Autodesk and Siemens PLM Software.
Last week, Siemens began offering its Solid Edge CAD package under a subscription program. For as little as $130 a month, you could download, install, and start using the software. With no commitment to a specific time (for example, an annual commitment), you can technically subscribe to use the software for one month, then cancel your subscription with no penalty for early termination.
This week, Autodesk launched its own rental program, offering popular titles like Autodesk Inventor, Revit, 3dx Max, and Maya under monthly, quarterly, and annual subscription fees. Some of the most economic options include Standard rental plans for Maya LT at $50 per month and Inventor LT Suite for $95 per month.
In addition to single titles, some bundles — such as the AutoCAD Design Suite, Building Design Suite, and Entertainment Creation Suite — are also available for subscription, priced beginning from $285 per month and up.
On the day of the rental program’s launch, Andrew Anagnost, Autodesk’s senior VP of industry strategy and marketing, explained in a Google Hangout session that “If you’re looking at purchasing a software for a year, the rental plans are about half of what it would cost to purchase the software upfront. In some cases, it’s even less, because we’re looking at certain market conditions.” Anagnost believes the rental would attract project-driven small businesses with limited cash flow. “Rather than compromising on the tool they use, they’ll just buy what they need for the project term they need to use it,” he added.
Anagnost’s sentiment is echoed by Kris Kasprzak, Solid Edge’s marketing director for Siemens, when he spoke of ideal Solid Edge subscribers. He said, ” A typical use case [for monthly subscription of Solid Edge] might be a government contractor who needs to work on a project for six months. They don’t want to buy the software, but want to be able to pay for it for using it six months. Or start-up companies without a lot of money. They can use Solid Edge on subscription until they’ve made it and realized they’ll need to use it perpetually. Or business that are cyclical, like toy manufacturers who’re on fire during holiday seasons, then less work later.”
The rental versions offered by Siemens and Autodesk are not cloud-hosted SaaS solutions, which typically run in browsers or thin clients. The rented program requires you to install the software on your machine.
Autodesk has wholehearted invested in the cloud-hosted delivery model, producing a slew of SaaS modules under its Autodesk PLM 360 brands. In simulation and visualization, Autodesk also offers some hybrid solutions — local installations augmented with cloud-hosted resources. The monthly rental program doesn’t replace the existing perpetual and cloud licensing schemes. As Anagnost explained, “We’re not taking away any choices. We’re adding choices.”
By contrast, Siemens doesn’t offer cloud-hosted solutions. Karsten Newbery, senior VP and general manager of Mainstream Engineering at Siemens PLM Software, said, “Our core CAD products remain on the desktop because most users want control over their IP, and there aren’t any performance benefits of hosting CAD in the cloud. By offering the online subscription option for Solid Edge, our customers get the best of SaaS for CAD without losing any control, or access to their data.” (Some may quibble with Newbery’s characterization of desktop-installed software as SaaS, but you get the point — It’s software you can pay and use for as long as you have to, without the hassle of ownership.)
Many others are probably observing Siemens and Autodesk’s rental experiment. If it proves successful, more titles are bound to become available as pay-as-you-go solutions from rivals. With this option, designers and engineers previously prevented from trying out a popular 3D CAD title by its high initial investment may be encouraged to accept the low-risk proposition.
Watch the recorded Google Hangout session in which Autodesk discusses the rental program.