Autodesk's trajectory in the first nine years has been steep, yet smooth. Autodesk's entire history to date has coincided with the longest period of uninterrupted economic expansion in this century. In the personal computing market, the IBM PC defined an open, extensible standard that was adopted worldwide as the desktop computing environment of choice. Cumulative change in computing has been revolutionary, but incremental in occurrence; Autodesk has not had to weather the transition from one standard to another as happened when machines of the IBM PC generation supplanted the CP/M Z-80 machines that went before.
Today, however, the future looks unsettled in every direction. There is every reason to believe that the calm and comprehensible environment in which we've built Autodesk may become turbulent and chaotic for a while. Autodesk enters this turbulence at high velocity, continuing to accelerate. It will be a period of maximum dynamic pressure on our company--Max Q. Autodesk's financial strength, market position, technological leadership, control of the channels of distribution, support for a wide variety of hardware and software platforms, and global diversification equip us to ride out this period of turbulence and emerge intact: strengthened, perhaps, with regard to competitors ill-prepared or unable to anticipate events that affect their plans.
But regardless of Autodesk's fundamental strengths, if even a minority of the events I suggest below come to pass, managing Autodesk in the next several years will be much more difficult than in the past. Hard choices will be required, and decisions with enormous consequences will have to be made with little assurance that they are correct.
In this paper, I'll try to survey some of the forms of turbulence that Autodesk may encounter in this period of Max Q, suggest alternatives for dealing with possible events that may transpire, and examine how Autodesk can emerge stronger and better positioned for the next period of growth which will follow, as surely as the changing of the seasons.
Editor: John Walker