Microsoft and Autodesk: what’s it all about?

Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) and Autodesk are to extend their current relationship to create tighter links between their respective software. Recently, MBS briefed the ARC Advisory Group on the key points and scope of the partnership.

In early October 2003 last year, at the APICS conference, Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) and Autodesk made a joint announcement that they would significantly extend their current relationship to create tighter links between their respective software.

Recently, MBS briefed the US-based ARC Advisory Group on the key points and scope of the partnership, including a comparison to other partnerships Microsoft has in the product lifecycle management (PLM) arena.

With this new partnership, Autodesk and MBS are not looking to provide a broad PLM solution to their target market, according to ARC. ARC feels that this is a good move as the target market sector, lower tier two and tier three, simply does not have the capabilities and desire for a full-fledged PLM solution. Rather, the two companies will be providing a simpler solution that will focus on enabling the active export and import of engineering design meta-data to MBS’s ERP solutions Axapta, Navision, and Great Plains.

Currently, Autodesk provides their Inventor software customers with a product called Autodesk Vault which includes embedded engineering data management capabilities. Autodesk Vault is a SQL-based data repository for managing engineering metadata files.

With the next release of Autodesk’s AutoCAD product, the company will include a new version of Autodesk Vault that basically has an XML wrapper to convert the engineering metadata into an XML format that MBS can then use to populate an ERP system. All of this exchange will be done in the form of a Web service via .Net.

Such functionality will enable customers to more readily share engineering design data with others in an organisation, including manufacturing and purchasing, to speed time-to-market and lower production costs. ARC analysts feel that the open, Web services nature of this solution is quite a step forward for data exchange between these two types of software systems for this market sector.

The strategic relationship between the two is non-exclusive, allowing each company to pursue other partnerships. The use of XML and Web services certainly hints that other partnerships will be forthcoming. That being said, the strong ties that the two companies have developed over many years, coupled with the high percentage of joint customers, as Autodesk is about as ubiquitous in manufacturing as Microsoft, leads one to believe that this is only the beginning of what will be an increasingly strong relationship.

Regarding Microsoft’s other partnerships with engineering design and PLM solution providers, Microsoft will pursue a strategy very similar to that which it uses in other markets. In this case, the relationship with Autodesk is only with MBS. In contrast, Microsoft’s technology platform group has a very strong joint development partnership with EDS’s UGS PLM Solutions.

MBS-Autodesk do not have a firm scheduled release date, but the two companies are targeting late summer for general release.

Pricing has also not been determined. MBS and Autodesk will leverage their respective channels to deliver the product to market and encourage channel partners to work together to address joint customer requirements.

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