Autodesk makes software, lots of it, free to students

Autodesk expands its education programs and makes software and training free to students and educators around the world. 

BIM Workshop Tutorial Image
The BIM Workshop is an example of the types of content available to students and educations through Autodesk’s new education program. In addition to focused curricula and workshops the program also provides access to Autodesk’s desktop and A360 software.  (Source: Autodesk)

Autodesk University is just kicking off and we’re  getting the idea that the company is seriously tinkering with the way they sell and support software. Just before the show opened the company announced a new education program. Autodesk is offering their software free to students and educators for use in classrooms, labs, and at home.

In a prepared statement, Carl Bass said, “The way we make things is changing rapidly, and we need a workforce ready to design for new manufacturing and construction techniques.” He said the company’s goal is to “help get industry ready for the next phase. “

This is an expansion of the company’s many programs to make software and training more readily available to the education community. What’s different is the breadth of software available and the improved access to resources. The company announced the availability of free software for academic institutions earlier this year in conjunction with President Obama’s ConnectED initiative. Now the company has expanded free access to academic institutions across Asia Pacific and Europe.

The program includes the cloud based A360 collection of tools as well as the desktop products. In fact, a look at the site shows a very full lineup. It looks like pretty much everything Autodesk has to offer.

Autodesk says they’re targeting more than 680 million students and educators from over 800,000 secondary and post-secondary schools in 188 countries. There is a strong focus on the A360 tools to foster the development of collaborative work flows. In the company’s announcement, they highlight programs involving young students using Fusion 360 in a variety of projects including creating and printing a prosthetic limb for a another student, developing sustainable homes, and creating an Energy Scooter which is being marketed on Kickstarter.

What do we think?

Autodesk has been steadily moving towards subscription based distribution of its products. This education program demonstrates the company’s commitment to the new model. To be clear, the software produces watermarked files, but it’s the real deal allowing students to gain the skills they need to get jobs and go to work. But, the future is clear: packaged software is not the product that companies will sell. Instead, companies are  selling expertise, training, ideas, collaboration, and community.