March 08, 2004
Autodesk Claims Inventor/Inventor Series Reigns For Three Years Running
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by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Autodesk Claims Inventor/Inventor Series Reigns For Three Years Running


Autodesk last week announced that Autodesk Inventor Series continues to be the world's #1 selling 3D mechanical design software. In the last year, the company sold more seats of its Autodesk Inventor Series software than its closest competitor, SolidWorks, thus illustrating Autodesk's market leadership position in 3D design for a third year.


"The 3D mechanical CAD market will continue to steadily grow over the next five years, as companies look for ways to design products more efficiently and cost effectively," said Gisela Wilson, director of product lifecycle management at market research firm IDC. "Autodesk Inventor Series enables customers to migrate from 2D to 3D systems at their own pace, which is particularly important to the small and medium business (SMB) market. Undoubtedly, Autodesk will play an important role in driving adoption of 3D mechanical design software over the next few years."


"Because Autodesk Inventor Series offers the only 2D and 3D design and documentation package, it provides a flexible and risk-free path to 3D. In addition, its integrated data management capabilities help synchronize design efforts across multiple teams while reducing errors and time spent searching for data, which are important benefits for our customers," said Robert Kross, vice president of the Manufacturing Solutions Division at Autodesk.


According to Autodesk, customer response to Autodesk Inventor Series has been overwhelmingly positive, with higher performance and ease of use cited as its latest advantages, allowing engineers to create designs faster.


"We were able to create the front, top and section views of an assembly 94 percent faster with Autodesk Inventor Series 8," said Michael Quinn, data manager at Dew Engineering and Development Ltd., a defense and aerospace engineering firm based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. "In our competitive market, this makes the difference between winning and losing an important project bid."


"The drawing performance increase of Autodesk Inventor Series is outstanding. With the ability to open the intended 3D model from a drawing, operating efficiency will definitely increase," said Mr. Tatsuaki Uratani, president of Uratani Engineering and author of "How to Use Inventor Passed on by the Professional," published by Softbank.


Autodesk's manufacturing solutions include Autodesk Inventor Series, the #1 selling 3D mechanical design software, and Autodesk Inventor Professional -- both with Autodesk Vault data management functionality built in; AutoCAD Mechanical and AutoCAD Electrical software; and the Autodesk Streamline collaboration service. In addition, customers can take advantage of widely available third-party applications purpose-built for Autodesk software.


Are you a little confused about what this announcement means, well join the club, because so was I. The announcement neglects to mention what the terms of the self-proclaimed #1 designation are - seats sold, revenue, or what? As for the source of the information, the press announcement simply stated, "Source: 2001-2003 publicly announced new unit sales of 3D mechanical design software." For clarifying the matter, I spoke with Andrew Anagnost, Director of Product and Solutions Management of the Manufacturing Solutions Division at Autodesk. He said that the designation was based on users converting from a 2D tool to a 3D tool. I'll translate that into commercial seats sold.


I was informed of this announcement with few details approximately 18 hours before I actually received it. The pre-announcement contained about the same degree of detailed information than the actual announcement did - not really much at all. Upon receiving the real announcement, I immediately contacted the outside PR firm that had sent me the pre-and actual announcements about getting some numbers to back up the claim. I also immediately contacted SolidWorks for their sales figures for the past four quarters. I thought it was ironic that SolidWorks was much more forthcoming about its sales figures with regard to seats sold and revenue generated. As a matter of fact, I got all the
information I had requested in less than an hour.


Autodesk, on the other hand, took a little over a day to get me the numbers I had requested to back up their own announcement, I suspect because they had to go through "proper channels." I did, however, eventually get what I was looking for.


So let's take a look at those numbers for the last four quarters from the two vendors. Although these numbers do reflect the last four quarters from both vendors, they report their fiscal years on slightly different calendars.


  Commercial Seats / Licenses Sold
  AutoDesk Inventor/Inventor Series SolidWorks
Q1   6,043
Q2   6,309
Q3   5,941
Q4   7,068
Total 26,774 25,361

  Revenue (In Millions)
  AutoDesk Inventor/Inventor Series SolidWorks
Q1 $30 $37
Q2 $29 $40
Q3 $33 $38
Q4 $47 $45
Total $139 $160

Keep in mind that the figures from both vendors represent product lines, and not one product, such as just Inventor or just SolidWorks. For example, the SolidWorks figures are totals for core SolidWorks, SolidWorks Office, and SolidWorks Office Professional, but do not include licenses of COSMOS (a line of FEA products also owned by SolidWorks). Likewise, for Autodesk, the totals include core Inventor and Inventor Series (which contains AutoCAD Mechanical for 2D and Inventor for 3D).


So, while Autodesk did indeed sell ~1,400 more seats of Inventor/Inventor Series than did SolidWorks in the last year (~5% more), SolidWorks generated ~$21 million more in revenue (~13% more) for its mechanical design offerings than did Autodesk. So who's the winner in this race? Admittedly, there are many different ways to be declared the winner, depending on the type of metrics you employ. What this all points to is that you have to read between the lines when claims are made in today's MCAD market, whether financial or functional.


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