A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life, 1860.
The paradox of Autodesk's situation is this. Despite having spent more than thirty pages describing deep-seated and serious problems with our company, I continue to believe that no company in our industry possesses the opportunity that Autodesk does today. Autodesk can, by seizing the moment, changing as required, and resuming an active rôle in the industry, build its success in the CAD industry into a much broader position in the software market and, in the process, resume the rapid growth of the early years which some believe is impossible in a ``large, mature company.''
For this to happen, Autodesk must step back from day to day events and look at where the industry has come, where it is today, and where it is going. In this paper I've presented my views; whether you agree entirely, dispute this point or that, or consider my entire world-view wrongheaded, you'll probably concur, after reflection, that it's highly unlikely an industry that has changed so rapidly in the first 45 years of its existence will conveniently cease to evolve at the very moment Autodesk becomes set in its ways.
Some people may welcome change, but most of us hate it. We prefer a quiet, normal life, doing the things we have become accustomed to. But sometimes change is necessary. Almost 10 years ago, I started to think about what was wrong with Marinchip, the company I started in 1977. Perhaps, I thought, it was time for a new company, a new way of doing things. What was wrong with Marinchip was that it got stuck in 1978, but the times, and the game had changed--by 1982, the PC market was becoming something very different. It was time to do something new. It was painful to change--painful to even think about raising money, working with lots more people, dealing with distributors, etc., but it had to be done. It was done, and Autodesk is the result.
Now it's time to consider whether Autodesk has become stuck in the past; whether it's time for Autodesk to change and how. The changes may be unpleasant to contemplate and difficult to carry out, but they may be just as necessary and, if successfully made, as rewarding. As I hope I've convinced you through brutal repetition if not by artful rhetoric, if and when Autodesk wishes to change course, it has the resources at hand to accomplish anything we wish.
With the imagination and resolve to use those resources, how can the future be anything but bright? AutoCAD owns the market for the creation of geometric models and preparation of drawings from them. We have just placed solid modeling in the hands of hundreds of thousands of people for the first time, and we're poised to follow that up with even more powerful surface and solid capabilities. With Generic CADD and AutoSketch, we cover the CAD market from the bottom to the top, on all popular computers.
We sell, with AutoShade, the most comprehensive tool for producing lifelike images from the models we build, a rendering engine created by the acknowledged world leaders in the field. We own a majority interest in Xanadu, a hypertext system conceived by the person who invented the concept and coined the word for it, and developed by a group of people who have devoted years to designing a knowledge storage system for the ages that is as much of an improvement over anything in existence today as books were over oral tradition. And along the road to Xanadu, they have developed what may be the most comprehensive and innovative object oriented development system ever built.
We own a majority interest in a company that has developed the first totally automatic, computer mediated information market. If ours is, indeed, the ``information age,'' then an information exchange will be as fundamental a part of that age as a stock exchange in the age of capitalism...and Autodesk owns the only one in existence. We have acquired exclusive marketing rights to the only molecular design software that spans the price-performance spectrum from laptops to parallel supercomputers; positioning us in another market at the very beginning of its rapid growth.
We market the very best paint package for the IBM PC, which also happens to do animation. With a few technical tweaks and a major market repositioning, it and its successors could own the entire raster graphics segment on the most widely used computers. We sell the first totally integrated 3D modeling, rendering, and animation software for mass market machines. If sold at a mass market price, it could begin to build this new market just as AutoCAD did years ago. We have $140 million in the bank, a thousand of the best people in the world, presence in every major market around the globe, and a channel of distribution dedicated to selling our products.
These are resources as great, or greater, than Microsoft has used to launch their last five successful products. What is lacking? How can a company with such assets have problems? What is needed is simply a clear statement of where to go, and a commitment to get there.
Editor: John Walker