Bloomberg News

Autodesk’s SketchBook IPhone Application Brings Flood of Users

September 19, 2011

Sept. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Autodesk Inc. spent almost 30 years selling engineering and design software to accumulate 12 million customers. It took a single iPhone app -- and less than two years -- to attract 7 million more.

Autodesk’s SketchBook application, which also works with the iPad and Android devices, has boosted the company’s user base and drawn new kinds of customers, Chief Executive Officer Carl Bass said today in an interview. The $1.99 product, released in September 2009, can create sketches and paintings on touch screens with a range of brushes, colors and layers.

While SketchBook users bring in much less revenue than Autodesk’s engineering customers, the app’s popularity has raised the company’s profile and spotlighted a broader shift away from traditional personal-computing software, Bass said. Customers are increasingly turning to Internet apps and cloud computing, which relies on massive data centers for storage and processing power.

“The biggest thing has been the move to the cloud,” Bass, 54, said in a televised interview with “Bloomberg West.” “We are reaching an audience that is far larger than we have ever reached before.”

Autodesk, the world’s largest seller of engineering-design software, also is seeing its manufacturing and architectural programs shift to the cloud. Bass estimates that the “vast majority” of software will be delivered via cloud computing within five years.

Cloud Market

Cloud services, offered by Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Inc. and dozens of other companies, provide an alternative to businesses maintaining their own software and servers. The cloud-computing market is expected to increase to $241 billion in 2020 from $40.7 billion this year, according to Forrester Research Inc.

For engineers, cloud computing offers the promise of limitless processing power, Bass said. An auto-industry designer, for instance, can test aerodynamics and safety in a fraction of the time.

Autodesk generated $1.95 billion in revenue last year, up 14 percent from the previous year. The San Rafael, California- based company serves as a bellwether for the broader economy because customers rely on it for major construction projects and creating new product lines. Its software has been used in everything from bridge design to the special effects in the movie “Avatar.”

Autodesk shares have tumbled 25 percent this year, hurt by concerns that economic growth is slowing. The stock fell 66 cents to $28.79 today on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

--Editors: Nick Turner, Stephen West

To contact the reporters on this story: Danielle Kucera in San Francisco at; Emily Chang in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at

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