Autodesk begins its cloud, 3D printing turns

Autodesk's subscriptions---cloud and maintenance---were strong in the first quarter. Over time, cloud subscriptions and 3D printing connections will be key to growth.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Autodesk's cloud services for its design software, which will be a key cog in the 3D printing ecosystem, represents about 20 percent to 30 percent of new users to the company's applications.

Meanwhile, Autodesk added 89,000 subscriptions in the fiscal first quarter. That tally puts Autodesk well on its way to its goal of 150,000 to 200,000 cloud and maintenance subscriptions for its fiscal year.

Pinning down Autodesk's cloud revenue is a bit tricky since the company is also moving to a maintenance subscription model too as it phases out upgrades.

Carl Bass, Autodesk CEO, said on an earnings conference call:

Clearly maintenance subscriptions, because of the size of it, will be the most important for a long time. There are a number of things we can do around desktop subscriptions to make them more attractive. If you remember how we made the transition from upgrades to maintenance subscription over the last decade, one of the strongest ways was to provide financial incentives for customers to move. We can do the same thing with desktop subscriptions.

For the future, the most important are the cloud subscriptions. The cloud subscriptions in the long term will be the most important, but we will never get there from here unless we start with a really strong base in maintenance subscriptions.

The company reported fiscal first quarter earnings of 12 cents a share on revenue of $593 million, up 4 percent from a year ago. Non-GAAP earnings were 32 cents a share. Wall Street was expecting non-GAAP first quarter earnings of 21 cents a share on revenue of $550.5 million.

Analysts were heartened that total billings were up 10 percent in the first quarter, the fastest growth in two years.

For the second quarter, Autodesk projected revenue of $595 million to $610 million with non-GAAP earnings of 25 cents a share to 30 cents a share.

Earlier this week, Autodesk launched a platform called Spark for 3D printing manufacturers. Bass said:

I've been frequently asked about Autodesk rolling opportunity in 3D printing, and I've been fascinated by the promise, and frustrated by the reality of 3D printing. So we're developing an open software platform for 3D printing called Spark, which will make it more reliable, yet simple to print 3D models, and easy to control how that model is actually printed. Spark will be open and freely licensable to hardware manufacturers and others who are interested.

Same for our 3D printer. The complete design of the printer will be made publicly available, to allow for further development and experimentation. We'll also introduce our own 3D printer as a showcase and reference implementation for Spark.

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