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Carl Bass | Think of Computing as Though it Were Infinite

TechCrunch is running a series of videos recorded at the Berkeley ‘Innovation Event’ last week. In this video, Andrew Keen challenges Autodesk CEO Carl Bass with the question “Why is Autodesk Relevant today?”.

Carl said that “Companies don’t die easily, but they become increasingly irrelevant…I don’t think there is any inalienable right for companies to continue to exist, you have to earn that every day…” I like that because it is quite true in our time.

Carl BassThere were a few other interesting quotes like “The most interesting people use our products”, and while totally related to the question, I wanted instead to point out a few other things that Carl went on to say. I felt the following is very representative with Autodesk’s actions in the marketplace, where they likely see themselves (and you) in the near future, and perhaps an idea of what direction will come after the next horizon.

The Next Horizon

Carl noted that software business models change  alongside how people use them: “I’d say 2-3 years from now, every one of our products will be used online….The only way to use them will be online”.

That’s what we all thought the company wanted to try to achieve, but I didn’t think Autodesk had such a tight focus on it as to claim it inside the visible and current ‘3 year jagged edge’.

By the way, the ‘3 year jagged edge’ is my name for the current significant 3 year future where things tend to change rapidly, but commitment is required even though you are not quite sure what will happen next. It’s the period of evolution where anything you say and do can be brought up later by Deelip Menezes with humorous and merciless total recall.

Carl also noted the following “We are…trying to figure out what designers and engineers are really trying to accomplish, and then …we figure out where the technology is going.” He goes on to point out how relevant to Autodesk are the 3 significant factors driving business in society today: “Cloud, Social, and Mobile”.

Lastly, the statement that really sums things up:

“Up until now we’ve all thought about computing all wrong, we’ve treated computing as this precious resource, where really, it’s an abundant resource, and if you look at all the trends around it, it’s increasing available, increasingly powerful, decreasing in cost, and increasingly elastic because of the cloud.  What you need to start doing is to think of computing as though it were infinite.”

My thoughts on Lead Pursuit

I don’t believe that it’s Autodesk’s intention to steer the technological future of engineering and design, but instead are seeing it evolve daily. What I think they will continue to try to do is to provide the tools that will give their customers the best, and most convenient capabilities that take advantage of technology as it evolves… to enable the customer with the tools that harness the current technology. In order to do that they constantly target that intersection Carl mentioned where peoples’ needs and desires run into the future direction of technology. (That’s ‘Lead Pursuit’ for all of us military aviation people.)

Many of us argue about the benefits (or lack thereof) of the cloud, and whatever new shocking trend affects design and engineering.  However, you cannot deny that these changes are inevitable, and that they are already shaping the way that all businesses operate.

I for one hope that Autodesk will continue to successfully evolve their tools along with the vision of unlimited computing power so that everyone can access it, and use it to change the future for the better.

Watch Carl Bass on TechCrunch

Image and interview courtesy of TechCrunch
  • John Davis

    Carl Bass says, “I’d say 2-3 years from now, every one of our products will be used online….The only way to use them will be online”.

    If my internet connection is down, I can’t work? You can’t actually mean that…

    Sweeping statements and over-generalizations cause knee-jerk reactions… Carl has a thousand days or so to refine (or abandon) THAT comment.

  • John Evans

    I understand how you feel, and have already experienced some of these issues in down times. I believe that companies like Autodesk are plowing ahead, knowing that capabilities in the broadcast technology are advancing and the scope broadening every year.
    The internet providers are under constant pressure to expand coverage areas. I don’t think that anyone can argue that the cloud (online, web, what have you) will be the next future we experience. How long before it encompasses everything? I can’t say, but it is already started, and if software companies don’t pioneer it, they will be left in the dust.
    Will Autodesk actually limit their products to ‘online only’ in 3 years? I doubt it, but will it all be available online by then. I’d be willing to wager a small amount on it.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if some products start going online only by the end of that term though….

  • Andrew

    Physical media has been disappearing rapidly for years now. How will Autodesk benefit from clinging to the old way of doing things. If the power goes out at your office, your computer won’t run, let alone AutoCAD. And if the water main bursts out front, you won’t even be able to go in to work to draw with a pencil and paper. The internet/data is now a utility that is rapidly becoming more of a need than a want. Think about where the world was with electricity in the early 1900’s. Think where we’ll be with data transmission in another ten years. Sometimes connections break down, and sometimes they need to shut down for maintenance, that’s life.

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  • John Davis

    John Evans,

    Well, it’s a year later and I’ve got to admit that I do see the plan coming into being. I am impressed by the fact that packages like the Configurator would be very expensive to enact in-house and appreciate the value of sending processor-intensive duties out to cloud-based servers! Cloud-based also has the benefit of getting applications that were previously stuck to my machine/server out into the world for use by peripheral users. However, coming to a screeching halt when I/they/we can’t get a connection could cause some to back away from Autodesk products. It’s like Mark Twain said, “All generalizations are false, including this one.”? 😉

  • John Evans

    I don’t think it’s coming to a screeching halt. What remains to be seen is the inter-company clouds and how they will affect this type of service and CAD software. Fusion 360 is still moving forward. I love my desktop based Inventor software very much, but as connectivity gets better, and CAD on teh cloud continues to be enhanced, eventually Inventor and the desktop will be dinosaurs.

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