The recent UK-coordinated criticism by architects’ firms of Autodesk and its software development and licensing practices is nothing new. Similar approaches have been made in Australasia and South Africa.
Unrest about Autodesk and its market dominance has been building for some years. Even before the company was criticised by 35 named architects last week, rumblings of discontent have been heard for at least a decade. And London-based Iain Godwin’s coordination of an open letter to Autodesk is not the first time that architects have come together to voice concerns about the rising costs of ownership of Revit and other Autodesk products, lack of development, and complexity of licensing.
Asia Pacific and South African Autodesk agitation
“We feel that the value for the money that we have been spending on the software subscriptions has been diminishing steadily, most noticeably in the last 2 or 3 years. We also feel that the annual enhancements to the software are not being sufficiently driven by existing user requirements – it appears that marketing driven changes are much more dominant.”
The whole letter has been shared on Linkedin. As well as the 12 signatories, several others offered support but were not prepared to sign for fear of compromising their relationships with Autodesk (surely a troubling sign of the levels of trust between the vendor and its customers). As well as additional subscription costs, it also noted an unfavourable pricing differential between US firms and those in Australasia, and highlighted issues affecting collaboration and interoperability:
“The annual change in file format and lack of backward compatibility of Revit versions prove to be an immense challenge to our requirements for collaborating with a varied group of consultants on different projects.”
Apparently, the net response from Autodesk was ‘”no letter, no email, no phone call. Nothing!”
In South Africa, a few weeks before the UK Open Letter to Autodesk was sent, a group of architectural firms got together and requested a session with their local Autodesk representative to express their concerns on the same topics: cost and lack of development of tools. This apparently resulted in a number of Zoom meetings and email exchanges, eventually being escalated to a call with Autodesk executives in Barcelona. However, one of the IT directors involved told Godwin the end result was just “a political response”.
(10 August 2020 – 7.30pm BST) – The open letter to Autodesk group has now been backed by a further 14 named architectural practices, including firms in the UK, South Africa, Netherlands, Italy, America and the Czech Republic. In addition to the total of 49 signatories, an additional 15 firms have anonymously backed the survey, wary of repercussions.
(20 August 2020) – Anthony Frausto-Robledo, editor-in-chief at Architosh.com has written about the Open Letter (An Unhappy Marriage: Autodesk Revit Users Unite Around Open Letter), talking to the several members of the original group, plus 3DRepo’s Jozef Dobos. Meanwhile, 37 further signatories* have been added to the open letter bringing the total to 86, plus 17 additional anonymous supporters, making 32 in total. And, on 17 August, Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost provided his own response: Autodesk and the Architecture Industry.
(11 September 2020) – Iain Godwin reports an additional 35 practices signing up to back the letter. This brings the total to 166: 118 named and signed, with another 48 firms backing the survey anonymously. Godwin says Autodesk has also held two ‘listening’ meetings, one with Autodesk executives and another with the AEC/ Revit development groups.
[* “To streamline the process, the ‘Letters to Autodesk’ website now has a section where applicants can easily fill in their practice name, details and any notes, to be quickly added to the signatories.”]