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Autodesk Mechanical DesktopFeatures

Migrating to Inventor

Autodesk Needs to Get its Mechanical Desktop Users to Switch to Its Latest MCAD Software

By Ralph Grabowski, editor, upFront.eZine

(reprinted by permission)

   See Also

  Autodesk Will No Longer Offer Mechanical Desktop Except With Inventor - CAD Reports, Feb 2002
  Autodesk website
  TenLinks Mechanical Desktop directory
  TenLinks Inventor directory
  Inventor reviews

February 3, 2002

Autodesk has a problem. It would like to deep-six its Mechanical Desktop software (MDT, which runs on top of AutoCAD), but the product suffers from being too popular (271,000 copies licensed as of Q4). Its other 3D MCAD product, Inventor, represents the future, but has a mere 33,000 (estimated) licenses.

MDT's popularity stems from it running on top of AutoCAD. That makes it easy for the MCAD designer to move from the familiar AutoCAD to MDT, without the trauma of learning a new user interface or losing data from translating existing drawings to new file formats.

Autodesk's "100% pure DWG" campaign has been successful scaring customers away from cheaper or other competitive products. It's kept them in the fold, convincing them to purchase AutoCAD-compatible products, like MDT and AutoCAD LT.

Inventor has the same problem, however, as any competitors' MCAD product: its user interface differs from AutoCAD; and its file format is incompatible. Autodesk solved the second problem by improving DWG translation in Inventor, although not good enough, apparently, because: (1) translation is translation; and (2) improved DWG translation is a feature in the new Inventor v5.3.

With its recent announcement of Inventor Series, Autodesk has now come up with a solution to the first problem: give away Inventor to MDT users. Let them choose which to use, MDT or Inventor. In the meantime, Autodesk can count all of them as Inventor users. Might Autodesk announce that Inventor has over 133,000 users (33,000 original users + 100,000 MDT subscriptions)? That would allow it to beat arch-competitor SolidWorks' number of commercial seats.

The plan is to give all USA- and Canada-based MDT customers on subscription a copy -- FREE -- of Inventor Series, which combines Inventor 5.3, MDT 6, and Mechanical 6 (a 2D-only version). The pricing, in US funds:


  • Inventor $4,995 
  • Inventor Series $5,195 


  • From AutoCAD $3,195 + subscription (see below) 
  • From Mechanical $3,195 + subscription 
  • From MDT $ 995 + subscription 
  • From Inventor 5 or MDT 6: $1,295 + subscription 
  • From Inventor 4 or MDT 4/5: $$2,495 + subscription 


  • M D T $ 795/year 
  • Inventor $ 895/year 
  • Inventor Series $1,095/year 

The annual subscription for Inventor Series is 38% more expensive than MDT alone, but $500 cheaper than the current MDT+Inventor subscription expense. This is a good deal for customers who already use both products, but it's not a good deal for MDT customers not interested in Inventor, who will be forced to pay $300/seat more when their annual subscription comes up for renewal.

Despite rumors of its demise, Autodesk says that MDT 7 "remains on our product roadmap and will be released on a future Autodesk Inventor Series CD."

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