updated 06:25 pm EDT, Tue September 20, 2011
Base increases almost 60 percent in two years
As Businessweek notes, it took Autodesk, the 3D and CAD software company best known for its industry-standard software AutoCAD -- nearly 30 years to build up a customer base of 12 million customers. But a single iPhone app -- the $2 Sketchbook Mobile, released almost exactly two years ago -- has increased the company's user base by almost 60 percent, bringing in seven million new users. The company also saw a 14 percent rise in revenue.
Sketchbook and other mobile apps the company has launched (including AutoCAD WS, a viewing and light editing app for AutoCAD's DWG files) do not make as much money for the company as its core line of professional CAD and design applications, but do bring in largely a different sort of customer to the company -- more artist than engineer, according to CEO Carl Bass. The popularity of the Sketchbook line (which is also available for Mac and PC) has raised the company's profile outside its core industry and has also demonstrated to the company the trend of mobile users who want to feel less tied to a traditional desktop program.
Customers, Bass says, are increasingly comfortable relying on cloud storage for documents and the quick, multi-platform access that provides, even among traditional manufacturing and architectural firms who are still Autodesk's largest clients. Some firms are already relying on cloud-computing and services as an alternative to running their own software and servers. Forrester Research suggests the "cloud industry" will grow at least five-fold over the next decade, as the infrastructure of cloud services grows and becomes a mainstream alternative.
While Autodesk's shares have not increased in value to match the "overnight" growth of its userbase -- shares have lost 25 percent of their value this year -- this may be due to Autodesk (and their market) being seen as a bellweather for the construction and design industry, which has been suffering in the stagnant economy. Expanding product lines -- and more importantly, attracting new customers -- has been the key to increasing revenues, which rose over $240 million to $1.95 billion compared to 2010 revenues of $1.71 billion.