LAS VEGAS, NV (Autodesk University) - To have attended Autodesk University 2013 was to be dazzled by Autodesk. Autodesk's main user event of the year pulled in over 9,000 attendees, most of them users who take classes in how to improve their skills (hence the 'University'), but who also sit and listen to Autodesk keynotes - and attend their lavish parties. Live music plays, beer and wine flows freely and food is in great abundance every night.
It's a good place and time for the press to take the measure of the company, not just with the measured, rehearsed pitches from the stage but from the chatter of the users, the manner in which the presentations are received and the informal talks (many 'off the record') with company executives.
This year, Autodesk outdid itself. From the initial almost boyish enthusiasm of their CTO, Jeff Kowalski and the 'Think Outside" speech to the smoothly delivered closing session by Amar Hanspal showing the most impressive Autodesk projects (virtual Smithsonian exhibits, a private lunar launch1 and a 3 million builiding model of Los Angeles!), Autodesk gave every impression that it is the coolest and most capable company in our industry.
Autodesk was successful in creating a sense of wonderment and inspiration, of boundless and varied tools and apps. Yes, you could get tips and tutorials on your desktop application -- that's what a lot of the classes were about -- but also shown were many more ways to do it online, on mobile devices, with 3D printing, now with CAM, skills and tools of the future...so many of them, and Autodesk had them all. Autodesk was successful in creating an aura for the new tools as modern, desirable -- but not mandatory. Unlike user events of before, there was no naked sales pitch, no sense of being forced to follow, as in being forced to upgrade or forced to new licensing schemes. No come with us or be damned. Just showing a vast panopoly of technology, a lot of it cheap, some of it free. When you want it, we have it.
Autodesk, already in control with the biggest user base in the CAD, CAM and CAE world, manages to keep users from ever eyeing the grass on the other side of the fence. Being in advance of user needs in so many areas (credit to well selected examples of awesome technology use, on stage at AU as well as in the incomparable Autodesk Gallery) means that the millions of every day users will always have a place to turn to. A company that seems to be riding every technology wave is a company they can stay with for the future.
At the same time, being seen as technology leader will encourage acceptance by new and young customers, they being already facile in the the latest technology -- and expecting it in their professional tools.
1. Moon Express