This is my current obsession. If you're interested in this, please subscribe to the ``Global_BBS'' mail alias. Suppose that when you purchased a legitimate copy of AutoCAD you received an access code which would allow you, simply by dialing a local phone number (our goal would be that 95% of the AutoCAD users world-wide would be able to access AGV with a local call), to access every file contributed by any other registered AutoCAD user in the world, send mail to any other user or interest group, and access the combined knowledge of more than half a million other AutoCAD users. And if you had a pirated copy? Sorry, Charlie. (I'll leave means for access control and validation to those who know more about such matters than I--but I'm sure effective solutions exist.)
Anyway, here's a genuine and unique advantage of becoming a full-fledged member of the AutoCAD community. The AutoCAD community becomes, in fact, not just an abstract concept we talk about in publicity but something tangible--an electronic link connecting every AutoCAD user who wishes to participate with every other user in the world--providing access, in time, to the collected wisdom of virtually every being engaged in design on this planet.
In the distant past when I was a kid, there were lots of people who couldn't imagine a world in which anybody could pick up a telephone, punch 12 or 15 digits, and within seconds speak to anybody else on the planet with a similar instrument. How easily we adapt to miracles! When Autodesk was founded, most people couldn't even imagine a world in which virtually any business could send mail, within seconds, to any other business on the globe. Today, not only do radio stations in Los Angeles take requests by FAX, in the tiny village in Switzerland where I live, even the butcher takes orders by FAX, for pickup later in the day.
And still, to many people, a world in which any user of a software package can communicate, send files, access libraries, and ask questions of any other user of that product is something ``utopian,'' ``futuristic,'' or something that may happen ``once Xanadu ships.'' People, it's something that I believe is going to be an integral part of the applications that dominate the software market by the year 2000, and it's something that Autodesk can implement, simply by deciding we want to.
In about six months, more or less. Without any software development.
By doing this we can not only utterly tilt the incentives toward owning a legal copy of AutoCAD that connects you with the AutoCAD Global Village, but in favour of AutoCAD as opposed to the other CAD systems sold by less imaginative companies that encyst their users in little islands of computing rather than uniting them in the global web of design, engineering, architecture, and manufacturing.
(Please spare me mail about ``our contract with CompuServe,'' the ``support burden,'' the ``need to wait for a market to develop'' and all the other stuff. I'm talking about creating incentives that don't currently exist, opening markets that aren't currently saturated, and developing businesses that the analysts won't analyse until somebody creates them. As that great American philosophical institution, Burger King Corporation, once said, ``Sometimes you gotta break the rules''.)
Editor: John Walker