Students can sign up for a three-year license and then additional three-year licenses, provided they still have access to an academic email address to prove that they're enrolled. An Autodesk spokesman said that's been the case for some time, as the company provided access to its portfolio for "home use."
What's different, however, is that Autodesk is now offering institutions the same free access. Not only will instructors and staff be able to use AutoCAD, for example, in their design classes, but their departments won't be charged for use. Meanwhile, students from elementary schools and high schools will be able to use all of Autodesk's products through college and beyond.
In all, Autodesk estimated that 80 million students and educators from more than 800,000 secondary and post-secondary schools in 188 countries will be able to take advantage of the free offer.
Of course, once a student has graduated and has been hired by an employer, the free license stops and Autodesk starts receiving a return on its investment. A single perpetual license to Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite Ultimate, with 3ds Max, Maya and Softimage all included will cost $7,915 for a U.S. customer, beginning in February 2015, according to the Autodesk Web site.
Why this matters: By encouraging artists, designers and other creatives to learn the ins and outs of Autodesk's products, the company can encourage users to become familiar with Autodesk's interface and ultimately hook them. That's the same strategy that helped Zilog's Z80 microprocessor dominate the embedded microcontroller market during the 1970s and 1980s, and the reason that Apple, Microsoft, Adobe and others offer discounts to students.