Something Isn’t Right

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed and conclusions drawn in this article are most probably completely insane. I am not in possession of even a shred of evidence to prove anything you are about to read. To avoid an almost inevitable waste of your time, I humbly request you to read this article in your free time.

Something has been bothering me over the weekend, since I wrote my last article regarding Inventor LT. I am almost convinced that the “feedback” story that has been dished out by Autodesk to would-be Inventor LT users outside the US and Canada is a load of neatly packaged crap. Something isn’t right. There is certainly more to this.

Shaan Hurley of Autodesk has been kind enough to leave a comment stating that lawyers and laws were the reason that Inventor LT was restricted to the US and Canada only. While I do not deny that legalities may be a reason, I highly doubt that the law and/or lawyers could be so restrictive, that too for a software which is free. I would like to be enlightened further on this.

Now would be a good time to read the disclaimer above once again…. Ok, you asked for it.

Since I am in India, I haven’t seen Inventor LT yet, but a look at Inventor 2008’s about box tells me that a lot of technology has been licensed by Autodesk from a variety of sources to give Inventor all its functionality. And from the little I know about Software License and Royalty Agreements (I have read only a few), there is a something known as a “Miminum Royalty per Seat”, which is a minimum amount of royalty that has to be paid irrespective of the cost of the product. This means that if I license a technology, embed it into my software and distribute it for free, I still would have to pay a royalty. So common sense tells me that Autodesk is actually paying money for each free seat of Inventor LT that is being installed in the US and Canada.

One can argue that Autodesk may have given the Minimum Royalty per Seat requirement the slip by treating Inventor LT to be a 365 day trial for a product that would be priced at $999 after a year. Indeed, royalty agreements do allow the licensee to distribute trial software without paying any royalty. But the maximum period of trial in all the royalty agreements that I have come across is 90 days. Who knows, Autodesk may have got away with 365. I find this extremely unlikely since among the list of licensors you can find Spatial (which shares a common parent with SolidWorks) and UGS, both of whom are not about to give Autodesk a free hand and let Inventor eat into their market share.

If the above is indeed true then Autodesk has a very good reason to restrict the download of Inventor LT to only those who are most likely to move to Inventor or at least pay $999 for Inventor LT after a year of free use. This logic takes Asia, Africa and South America off the table. Probably Europe will be give access to download Inventor LT next.

Surely you cannot expect Autodesk to tell people outside the US and Europe,”Sorry, we feel that you will eventually use pirated Inventor. So we see no point in shelling out money so that you can use Inventor LT for free.” They are a decent bunch of people who would prefer to say, “Current demand for the Inventor LT technology preview has far surpassed our initial estimates. In order to provide our participants with the best experience, we have decided to limit availability to participants in the US and Canada at this time.

Something tells me that I am now going to be crucified. Thank God for disclaimers.