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Thread: Software upgrade prices and options

  1. #1
    BIM Manager Brian Myers's Avatar
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    Default Software upgrade prices and options

    Dumb question, but I was wondering if I'm the only person that thinks it:

    We buy a car for $$$$ and expect it to run well for us. In general we're happy with it and we don't expect to get a great trade-in come time to buy another one (we're gleeful for half the value).

    I buy a computer. I know in 5 years I'll likely replace it and get nothing in return.

    I buy a computer game. I pay full price and I'll pay full price again if a sequel comes out.

    Why should I complain about having to pay full price (or a slightly discounted price) when a new CAD program comes out? My Car, computer and game all have warranties that run out after a certain amount of time, why should my CAD program be any different?

    I can still get my car fixed even if the manufacturer doesn't support it anymore. Same with the computer. I just know I'll need to go to outside sources to do it. Why do I worry if the company that sells me a CAD program operates the same way?

    Yes this is a pointed question to subscription and upgrade costs of software. I'm not trying to start an argument, just asking why do so many people take this as offensive that a CAD software vendor would dare charge more for future (upgrade) products when every other industry and product does it as well and we don't think twice about it. Just looking for opinions.
    Brian Myers
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    Certifiable AUGI Addict Robert.Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Software upgrade prices and options

    Well put........what is more strange is that I would pay mucho dinero for the Car, Computer, Game software.....and at the same time $6 for a pack of socks is breaking the bank. If I had none of the former, I could buy socks for the entire city I grew up in.

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    BIM Manager Brian Myers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Software upgrade prices and options

    That's very true!

    I think it comes down to many Architecture and Engineering firms have tight budgets and buying multiple seats of a software program can put a major hurt on a company. But when you talk about something like software, ideally your employer should just budget X amount of dollars per employee to make it work along with salary / insurance /benefites / etc.

    I think it's touchy since unlike a car, a game, or computer this directly effects your life, productivity and marketability. As a result, people tend to panic when they don't get it and blame the software company instead of the employer for not planning or the economy for making things difficult. If this was anything else (a new chair / drafting table / flat files / etc.) the "upgrades" would be wished for but rarely out right demanded with anger as these things don't effect how you do your job and/or effect your value in the job market.
    Brian Myers
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    I could stop if I wanted to michael.12445's Avatar
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    Default Re: Software upgrade prices and options

    OK, here are some countervailing thoughts...

    1. The guys writing the checks for computer hardware / software are, in our firm, the principals. When they started their firm (30 years ago), the "hardware" needed to produce drawings consisted of parallel rules, drafting tables, triangles, lead holders, etc. Properly cared for, these tools would never wear out, so their acquistion was a one-time cost - and not nearly as high as the cost of equipping a drafter with, say, a PC and a seat of AutoCAD. So now that the firm has transitioned from hand drafting to computers, particularly given the increased expense, it's hard for the principals to understand why, once bought and paid for, there should be any more ongoing costs associated with PC hardware and software.

    2. Cars are mechanical devices, subject to wear and tear in direct proportion to the amount of use. That's why they have odometers. After a certain amount of mileage, it costs more to keep repairing a car than it would to make monthly payments on a new one. The only mechanical parts of a PC to suffer similar wear and tear are the disk drives, fans, mouse, and keyboard, and to a lesser extent, CRT monitors. Each of these parts can be replaced for a fraction of the cost of a new PC. In my experience, most PCs are still in perfectly good working order when they are put out to pasture. Newer hardware becomes necessary only because newer operating systems and programs are more resource-hungry. If the older software did its job adequately - and newer software wasn't incompatible with older systems - there would be far less need to upgrade the hardware. Software, of course, has no moving parts to wear out.
    Of course, there's an emotional component to upgrading as well - in the new car market, styling is extremely important. And I think most people get some satisfaction from having shiny new PC hardware and software as well.

    3. We've all heard about Moore's Law, which states that the rate of progress in microprocessor technology is such that every 18 months the amount of computing capacity per dollar can be expected to double. And we've seen similar increases in performance per dollar in memory and disk storage devices, too. But not in software. I don't think even the most ardent AutoCAD advocate could argue, for example, that today's AutoCAD is 1000 times more powerful than the AutoCAD of, say, 10 years ago. It gets harder and harder to explain to those check-writing principals why, after spending thousands of dollars on upgrades, people are still having trouble getting the line weights right on their prints, or why sharing drawings with other offices is such a pain - basically, why the software isn't much more user-friendly, intelligent, and goof-proof. In other words, why isn't it just as "transparent" to use as a parallel rule and triangle? And when upgrades appear in ever-shorter cycles, it begs the question, why didn't they just write the software correctly in the first place?

    4. Finally, those of us in the trenches doing the actual work on PCs, as opposed to writing the checks, have seen free or very low-cost open-source operating systems and applications arise in the past few years of astonishingly good quality. Linux is the obvious example, but I'd also cite the Apache web server; the Cyrus mail server, Samba for sharing *nix resources on Windows machines, the Open Office office suite, the Thunderbird mail client, Firefox web browser, GIMP bitmap/photo editor, etc., etc. If this kind of work can be made available at such low cost either by volunteers or other companies, why does our CAD software - which in many ways suffers by comparison - need to be so expensive?

    Hope this offers some food for thought.

    Michael Evans
    Togawa & Smith, Inc.

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    BIM Manager Brian Myers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Software upgrade prices and options

    Michael, I'm not trying to start an argument, but I do have a couple points to bring up about your answers.

    Your name is typical of several Revit users here on the boards and that's fine if you are. But your comments make me think you've either never used an old version of AutoCAD or simply didn't do any CAD drafting in the early 90's or before. Perhaps you've never used AutoCAD in a long term-production atmosphere. This isn't an insult as I respect your comments very much, but you just said a handful of things I don't understand if you were working with CAD back then.

    The first comment was:

    "In my experience, most PCs are still in perfectly good working order when they are put out to pasture. Newer hardware becomes necessary only because newer operating systems and programs are more resource-hungry. If the older software did its job adequately - and newer software wasn't incompatible with older systems - there would be far less need to upgrade the hardware."

    I remember the days when 3D wasn't possible, a "Regen" of a drawing could take several minutes and a drawing 1MB in size was huge. That was less than 15 years ago. 10 years ago 90% of the profession still used AutoCAD for DOS and a Tablet to run commands. Trust me... these machines were slow even with the software for that day. Machines of 5 years ago were OK. But most had issues that slowed them down and they're not powerful enough to run the software needed to correct these issues. In my experience, PC's put out to pasture still often work but really are indeed too slow or just not quite good enough. Even the Principals of most firms realize this.... why do you think THEY are not using those slow computers themselves to save money?

    The second comment was:

    "...But not in software. I don't think even the most ardent AutoCAD advocate could argue, for example, that today's AutoCAD is 1000 times more powerful than the AutoCAD of, say, 10 years ago. "

    With this comment you obviously didn't use AutoCAD 10 years ago. AutoCAD isn't 1000 times more powerful by itself, but I can do many more things 5-10 times faster today than I could back then and I promise that's not an exageration. Why? Because of so many more features today (including the Desktops) and the speed of the machines that they've run on has improved tremendously.

    Finally:

    "If this kind of work can be made available at such low cost either by volunteers or other companies, why does our CAD software - which in many ways suffers by comparison - need to be so expensive?"

    It doesn't... I do agree with you on this. But let me put it like this...

    Lets say you make pencils. You sell it for $2. Someone buys it.
    Next Pencil Sells for $10
    The Next for $50.
    The next for $2000.
    The next for $4000.
    All the same Pencil.

    As long as the market will support these costs Autodesk will continue to sell their products at these prices. They gripe, complain, talk bad... and fork over the cash. They have no incentive to lower the cost. It's simple business... supply and demand.

    In short: I understand your comments and agree with many of them. Also I understand many of them were seen from the eyes of a Principal trying to comprehend everything. But the industry is evolving and buying the improved hardware and software for a reason... it gives them a competitive advantage and that can be a Priceless investment in a competitive market. Ultimately the companies that understand this will continue to thrive and the companies that don't will eventually fall behind. Just because a Principal can run a business for 30 years successfully doesn't mean he has what it takes to do that today in the fastest changing marketplace in history. He may.. but he may not too. Ultimately these choices will be seen in employee happiness and the bottom line.

    This has nothing to do with Autodesk products... it could be any software program(s) or hardware... I just use Autodesk as an example because myself and most of the readers in this forum can relate to it. Software and hardware HAS improved that much in the last ten years and will in the next ten years too. That even goes for Revit... or Microstation...or ArchiCAD...or.....
    Brian Myers
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    Certifiable AUGI Addict Robert.Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Software upgrade prices and options

    Very good points made here.....did anyone consider that some people in the job market may be looking for companies that run the software they are comfortable using??? Point Im making is that somebody who works with Autocad 2004 may not want to work for a company that runs a dinosaur version of Cad, say R12. That would be a very good sign that the company probably isn't very prosperous. Sometimes the upgrades and decent computer hardware can help in hiring some talented professionals. I always wanted to live out my career working on top notch equipment.

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    BIM Manager Brian Myers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Software upgrade prices and options

    Quote Originally Posted by rhall.72202
    Very good points made here.....did anyone consider that some people in the job market may be looking for companies that run the software they are comfortable using??? Point Im making is that somebody who works with Autocad 2004 may not want to work for a company that runs a dinosaur version of Cad, say R12. That would be a very good sign that the company probably isn't very prosperous. Sometimes the upgrades and decent computer hardware can help in hiring some talented professionals. I always wanted to live out my career working on top notch equipment.
    That reminds me of a job I took about 3 years ago. I went from using AutoCAD 2002 (ADT actually) to a firm using AutoCAD r14 w/ an add-on package. You forget just how many improvements have actually been made in the program until you step backwards and don't have them anymore. I was pretty miserable for a year and never got comfortable with their offices standards.

    It really made you feel at times like you were spinning your wheels, but no one else there realized the problem since they had never known anything better. I eventually left and made sure I went to a company that was using the latest tech (I actually was allowed to puchase it and lead the office in the change over) because I didn't want to have to deal with that again.

    Great point!
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    I could stop if I wanted to michael.12445's Avatar
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    Default Re: Software upgrade prices and options

    Quote Originally Posted by bmyers

    I remember the days when 3D wasn't possible, a "Regen" of a drawing could take several minutes and a drawing 1MB in size was huge. That was less than 15 years ago. 10 years ago 90% of the profession still used AutoCAD for DOS and a Tablet to run commands. Trust me... these machines were slow even with the software for that day.

    The second comment was:

    "...But not in software. I don't think even the most ardent AutoCAD advocate could argue, for example, that today's AutoCAD is 1000 times more powerful than the AutoCAD of, say, 10 years ago. "

    With this comment you obviously didn't use AutoCAD 10 years ago. AutoCAD isn't 1000 times more powerful by itself, but I can do many more things 5-10 times faster today than I could back then and I promise that's not an exageration.
    Actually, I started using AutoCAD 9.0 in 1989. That was in a firm doing custom residential work, which didn't really overtax the machines too much. When I moved to my present firm in 1994, we were using AutoCAD 12 for DOS. We did entire 4- and 5-story apartment buildings (100 units) on 386 computers with 14" screens, without undue delays in regens, etc. It can be done, it's just a matter of figuring out how to live within one's digital means, so we just managed the project in such a way to avoid:

    - any 3D work
    - paper space (R12 was really slow with paper space)
    - drawings larger than about 500K (actually possible with R12)
    - external refernces (we didn't have a network)
    - needing plots too soon after finishing the CAD editing (output devices were REALLY slow back then!)

    I'll grant you that these limits seem unreasonably severe today and yes, we can do many things 5 to 10 times faster now. But that's still a couple of orders of magnitude less than the advances made by the hardware, for equivalent money. For those who aren't very computer literate, the line between hardware and software can be fuzzy, leading to a perception that the software isn't delivering the performance it should.

    Quote Originally Posted by bmyers

    "If this kind of work can be made available at such low cost either by volunteers or other companies, why does our CAD software - which in many ways suffers by comparison - need to be so expensive?"

    It doesn't... I do agree with you on this. But let me put it like this...

    Lets say you make pencils. You sell it for $2. Someone buys it.
    Next Pencil Sells for $10
    The Next for $50.
    The next for $2000.
    The next for $4000.
    All the same Pencil.

    As long as the market will support these costs Autodesk will continue to sell their products at these prices. They gripe, complain, talk bad... and fork over the cash. They have no incentive to lower the cost. It's simple business... supply and demand.
    I agree, it's supply and demand, based on whatever prices the market will support. But with high-quality low-cost software making more and more inroads (we've got 4 Linux servers in our office...) - and more people like me (and the principals) raising the kinds of points I cited in my first post, I just wonder how much longer the market will be able to support today's prices.

    Regards,

    Michael Evans

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    BIM Manager Brian Myers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Software upgrade prices and options

    I agree Michael!

    On a side note, not only did we start using it the same year but we appear to have had many similar experiences.

    I also agree that our software hasn't progressed with the level of hardware. But it's key to remember that these same issues have been raised with many programs, from MS Windows to computer game design. But it's really only been in the past 5-6 years where programmers have had the luxury of hardware that powerful enough for them to do the programming they really wanted to do. Unfortunately they had already in place all this past programming and they either need to work with it or get rid of it and start from scratch. Autodesk is electing to keep it. Microsoft, they are dumping it and starting from scratch (their Longhorn release will debut in the next two years... totally new code).

    But this does go back to one of the original points: Most other software products are not even 1/4 the cost of AutoCAD or other Autodesk products. But like we said, it's supply and demand and we're "willing" to pay for it... at least that's what an 80-85% market share says.

    Thanks Michael!
    Last edited by Brian Myers; 2005-01-14 at 06:50 PM.
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