AECCafe Special Report: Bentley “You Deserve Better” Upgrade Program Aimed at AutoCAD Users, by Susan Smith

Software firms that retire software have always met with great resistance from users. And rightly so; the cost of an upgrade involves not only the cost of the upgrade itself, but time and money spent just bringing users up to speed on the new software. With AEC projects, projects last so long that very often users are using a variety of old file formats to access old information. The projects are also comprised of several different companies working together on many different versions of different software. It would be impossible for them to all upgrade en masse.

Bentley Systems announced last week a solution to at least a part of this dilemma: their “You Deserve Better” upgrade program and website for disgruntled AutoCAD users who face the forced retirement of their AutoCAD 2000/i software.

In a recent survey of AutoCAD users, Bentley found that most of all AutoCAD users wanted an �open solution.' They need their CAD products to natively support DWG, DGN, and PDF. Also, they need historical, non-retiring support of these formats. “Clearly, an open solution would allow them to run their businesses without forced disruption and to engage in more projects," summarized Tony Flynn, chief marketing officer for Bentley. “What our 'You Deserve Better’ program offers is an open, universal solution.”

The upgrade program outlined in the press release, in response to Bentley's survey of more than 2,500 AutoCAD users, gives these users what they requested, plus more. The program includes:

-- MicroStation-based product functionality that meets or exceeds that of comparable AutoCAD offerings, including bonus features not found in AutoCAD products and a wider range of product and application choices

-- An open and universal solution compared to the AutoCAD offerings, including native support of DWG and DGN in all products, read and write support of DWG back to R11, and support of Adobe PDF

-- Upgrade pricing that meets or beats the Autodesk retirement pricing, including free viewers for DWG and DGN, multiple price points, and an estimated savings of 25 percent to 36 percent or more for design teams upgrading from AutoCAD 2000/i

-- An ongoing company policy against retiring file formats or user licenses, in contrast to the regular retirement practices of Autodesk

-- Special services and compatible functionality designed to make the upgrade fast and easy

The press release outlines the program's product offerings, based on four Bentley products, in descending price:

-- MicroStation: the comprehensive 2D/3D design/engineering system that is the preferred choice of most U.S. DOTs, plant EPC firms, and the world's top design firms. It natively reads and writes DWG and DGN.

-- MicroStation PowerDraft: a midrange production drafting product, fully compatible with MicroStation. It natively reads and writes DWG and DGN.

-- MicroStation Redline: a low-cost viewing, printing, and redlining product for DGN/DWG-based drawings, models, or maps.

-- Bentley View: a free viewing and printing product for DWG/DGN-based drawings, models, or maps.

The price to upgrade from AutoCAD 2000/i to MicroStation V8 is exactly the same as the cost to move to AutoCAD 2005 - $1,495. The price to upgrade from AutoCAD 2000/i (or AutoCAD LT 2000/i) to MicroStation PowerDraft is $750, or 50 percent less. The price to upgrade from AutoCAD LT 2000/i to MicroStation Redline is $100.

Originally, Autodesk states on its Web site: "After January 15, 2005, Autodesk will no longer sell upgrades or crossgrades from any AutoCAD 2000i-based products or Autodesk Inventor Series 6. Additionally, Autodesk will no longer provide technical support, apart from existing maintenance patches that are downloadable from"

What about the Survey?
The survey reflected some very interesting results. Users were asked their level of agreement with a series of questions, for example: “I want my software vendor not to disrupt my project workflow by forcing me to upgrade or retire my software product.” 56% of those surveyed answered that they strongly agree. “ I want to create PDF deliverables of my projects so I can freely share engineering and constructing information.” 62% answered they strongly agree.28.3% of respondents were in the buildings, facilities and construction industry, 22.5% were in industrial, process, plant; 21.8% were in road, rail and site infrastructure; 16.1% were in communications, government, utilities and mapping; other comprised the last 11.2%.Bentley’s Commitment HistoricallyThe survey and subsequent upgrade program is a great way for Bentley to showcase their business model. From the beginning of the company, CEO and President Keith Bentley decided never to retire a file format; to always be able to read and write that format. “He’s remained committed to that because he feels it is a unique requirement of AEC projects,” explained Flynn.        

How did Bentley estimate savings for design teams upgrading from AutoCAD2000i?
“We took a design team of 10 and said that half of them could move to MicroStation and half of them move to PowerDraft, and in both cases of Autodesk and Bentley, they each pay for a year of maintenance, and then also for Bentley they take on three home use licenses,” commented Flynn. “We weren’t able to come up with the Autodesk policy on home use, but if they do allow for home use as we do, it was 25% savings and if they don’t allow for home use, it’s 36% savings.”

Additional arguments (not counted in the above calculations) for taking on the Bentley upgrade program might be that many of the LT users would be satisfied with the free viewer, Bentley View, which would give a company greater savings. Also, many using LT could move to Redline with more savings. Plus, as this is a “universal solution” for all the different formats, the cost of administration would naturally come down. “Rather than having to maintain two or more versions of AutoCAD to participate in all the AEC projects you have going on, you can now just maintain one version of MicroStation and it can read and write to all these projects. And it will support all elements within these different products,” Flynn explained.

This all works just fine as long as you’re not using an application as well, but Flynn said they are working on that problem.

Right now Bentley is focusing their efforts for this upgrade program on the U.S. market, but will be coming up with International pricing as well, which will take awhile longer.

A spreadsheet of these results can be downloaded at

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