Autodesk channel nudged direct?

Autodesk channel nudged direct?

PC and Web-based design software vendor Autodesk has opened an online direct sales outlet, but local managing director Andre Pravaz says resellers won't be left out of the loop.

The Californian company announced yesterday that it would open an online "e-store", through which customers could purchase and receive limited support for Autodesk's "flagship" product, AutoCAD.

Pravaz said the initiative was caused by high demand for the product to be sold online. In fact, he cited a recent survey of most of Autodesk's 35,000 Australian and New Zealand customers, which found that almost 70 per cent preferred to pay for and carry out software upgrades via the Internet.

Despite a high customer demand for online direct sales, Pravaz said Autodesk had taken precautions to maintain a significant level of reseller involvement with the company. For this reason, he said the selling price for a product sold via the company's e-store would be made higher than if it were sold through a channel reseller. This would prevent the online outlet from competing with resellers, he said. "The company has been very careful to make sure it's positioned so the price of the product is above the street price."

Autodesk would not allow volume-related flexibility of purchase price, Pravaz said. "If a company wants to buy 10 units of our product from the e-store, then they have to pay the full price," he said, adding that Autodesk resellers typically provided discounts for large-volume purchases.

Additionally, customers would only have access to limited product support via the company's e-store. The vendor would refer customers requiring more detailed product support to its reseller partners, all of which were certified in providing support for the products, he said.

Autodesk will encourage resellers to lead customers to the company's e-store by paying resellers per-referral commissions. Because the "program is not yet completed", Pravaz was unable to specify any payment model for these commissions.

The e-store will initially operate only in the US and Canada, although he said a store would be opened in Japan within one month. The Internet outlet would not be opened in Australia until July 1, after the GST had officially taken effect on Australian retailers, he said.

Autodesk, whose software Pravaz said had been responsible for the original design of the Internet's infamous "dancing baby" graphic, currently has offices in 66 countries. The company employs 3500 people, while the AutoCAD product boasts over 4 million users worldwide.

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