I've been a fan of Autodesk's (NAS: ADSK) products for a long time. My first exposure to its AutoCAD product was more than 15 years ago in my high school drafting class. The program wasn't fancy, especially compared with what it makes today, but that one program may have been what swayed me to go into engineering instead of another profession. As an engineer, I preferred the simple interface of Inventor to more power and complex drafting programs.
Fast-forward to today, and the company has transformed into a necessary business software tool and a whimsical maker of innovative applications. In the engineering world, in my experience, Autodesk isn't as widespread as SolidWorks, Unigraphics, or Pro Engineer, which are more powerful programs. But Autodesk has made inroads by making presentation and usage easier for non-hardcore users.
What got me intrigued about Autodesk recently was the company's Sketchbook Ink presentation during Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iPad presentation. The company showed that it could take a product like SketchBook Pro, which has a fairly limited audience on the desktop, and transform it into an incredible app for the iPad, which has an incredibly large audience.
The impact of this expansion has been tremendous for Autodesk. The company has 15 apps that have been downloaded a total of more than 20 million times, double the number of customers it has for desktop applications. When you combine a business with a foundation in business productivity and add the ability to create innovative products for new tools like the iPad, the opportunities are limitless. Idea communication becomes easier, customer innovation can happen faster, and all of this creates value for Autodesk's customers.
What sets them apart
I've argued recently that software companies focused on developing products for products like the iPad are in a tough strategic position. Switching costs to a new app are low, and you can be replaced in a heartbeat. But Autodesk is a little different. It has a foundation in productive software and has been able to branch out into new products like Fluid FX, SketchBook, and Tinkerbox. And unlike Adobe (NAS: ADBE) or Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) , it isn't trying to build a platform product, which companies can refuse to adopt or look for alternatives.
I'm making an outperform CAPScall on Autodesk for the next five years; predicting that this stock will outperform the market. We've also created a free report about a top stock that will profit from the new technology revolution. The report is free, but only for a limited time.
At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorTravis Hoiumhas no position in any company mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at@FlushDrawFool, check out hispersonal stock holdingsor follow his CAPS picks atTMFFlushDraw.The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Autodesk, and Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Adobe Systems, and Apple, creating a diagonal call position in Adobe Systems, and creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.
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