Autodesk seems to be tightening up their rules regarding use of the popular Fusion 360 CAD system.
The company moved the product to a subscription-based cloud system a couple of years ago and then simplified their licensing levels. This is a very common practice in the software industry as it provides significant advantages: a near-100% likelihood that all participants are on the same software release, and a guaranteed smooth flow of income.
Among the subscription levels provided by Autodesk for Fusion 360 was what they called the “Startup/Hobbyist” license. This license allowed individuals to use the product at no charge as long as the usage was for personal use or for a startup company with annual revenue less than US$100K.
This license proved extremely popular and since its introduction I’ve seen it more or less take over the “Free” community. Certainly some of these free license holders eventually moved up to the paid versions as their work became more serious.
New Autodesk Fusion 360 Free Licenses
However, it seems that Autodesk is tightening up the free licenses.
I’ve been forwarded an email from Autodesk to a Startup/Hobbyist license holder, and the email asks the license holder to choose one of three options upon annual renewal. The choices are:
Fusion 360 for personal use (Free) — Limited functionality for non-commercial, personal use only.
Fusion 360 for startup use (Free) — Includes all existing Fusion 360 capabilities for the design and manufacture of new or innovative products. Approval is required.
Fusion 360 commercial (Paid) — Includes access to all current and future capabilities.
For those using the powerful Fusion 360 for personal use, this licensing change is likely without any notable effect, as the functionality excluded includes team features and power CAD import/export. However, for those in startup companies, the bottom line is that you must now go through an approval process.
Fusion 360 Startup License Qualifications
Let’s take a look at the new qualifications for the Autodesk Fusion For Startup Use license:
Fewer than ten staff (does not specify whether they are full or part time)
Less than US$100K annual revenue
Willingness to share stories with the Autodesk community
“Venture-backed, angel-backed, or bootstrap startups”
Using Fusion 360 to design new products
There are also some restrictions around unusual corporate arrangements, such as subsidiary companies, contractor use and more.
To obtain the software using this new license, you must fill out a form answering all these questions and more, and then apply to Autodesk. It’s possible they may reject applications if they don’t see them fitting into their definition of a startup.
Autodesk Fusion 360 Licensing Strategy
Thus it appears that Autodesk wants the startups using Fusion 360 to truly build new products and allow Autodesk to showcase them in some manner.
This sounds like a reasonable growth strategy for the product, as they really do have to translate some portion of free licenses into paid licenses.
On the other hand, it’s likely there are some small businesses using Fusion 360 that don’t exactly fit into the definition of “startup” as provided by Autodesk. For these companies it may be a requirement to switch to a paid license, which currently runs for US$495 per year, or US$60 per month. Really, this amount is not particularly arduous, especially when compared to the software license — and hardware cost — of using alternative products.
While this licensing change may annoy some previously free license holders, it’s a reasonable business move by Autodesk that is totally understandable.