AutoSketch was designed to give Autodesk an entry in the low-cost drawing market, both in the hope of its becoming a successful product in its own right, and to protect against erosion of the low end of the AutoCAD market by competitors who could expand from such a foothold by upgrading their products (as Generic CADD has done, precisely as we predicted and feared). The product was previewed at the first AutoCAD Expo in 1986 and shipped in November of that year. Development of the product through shipment consumed approximately one man-year, involving senior development staff exclusively. Following its shipment, the product was essentially ignored by Autodesk's marketing and sales effort as well as the development group until the establishment of the AutoSketch #1 Team in 1988. Recently some technical resources have been expended on the product, initially to create versions for hardware bundling deals and the PS/2, and now to add some user-requested features to the product.
AutoSketch is evaluated in the Marketing/Sales plan as ``falling behind the fast moving market of Low-End CAD and Graphics software''. No wonder--it's remarkable that a product on which no serious work has been done in two years is a contender at all; the fact that we've managed to sell 70,000 units of a static product is truly remarkable and a credit to those who made it happen. The reason given for the abandonment of AutoSketch by the development group is ``Technical resources''. I disagree--its abandonment is the consequence of priorities being placed elsewhere. AutoSketch is a simple program to learn and work on--I find it hardly credible that if development of AutoSketch had been set as a clear priority for the technical department and the management of that department had acted to obtain and assign resources to the product, twenty-four months would have passed with no action--months during which numerous development personnel were recruited and put to work on AutoCAD, with its much larger and steeper learning curve. AutoSketch has generated revenues on the order of $50,000 per month throughout FY 1988 and 1989 to date, with several peaks near $100,000. Yet AutoSketch has been assigned little or no development resources while AEC, with sales only twice that, has merited an entire subdepartment, dedicated promotion, etc. This is not a resource constraint; it is lack of priority, focus, and follow-through.
The product strategy for AutoSketch includes a plan to include the ``Rube'' constraint manager in the product to provide a unique point of distinction in the market, make it attractive to a new set of users (including those with AutoCAD), and possibly move the product up-market in price and perception. Yet the technology group who prototyped Rube ceased work on integrating it into AutoSketch over a month ago because they were unable to obtain any direction, commitment of resources, or plan of integration from the software development group.
Editor: John Walker