What Does Free Really Get You? AVAIL’s Response to Autodesk’s Acquisition of UNIFI


With Autodesk’s acquisition of former AVAIL competitor UNIFI—now Content Catalog—and announcement that the service will be wrapped into Autodesk Docs, we have been fielding many well-meaning questions from BIM Managers and beyond as they discern the best strategy for the future of their firms’ content management. For those who already have Docs access, Content Catalog will be essentially free, they tell us. What is our response to free? Value, says Randall Stevens, AVAIL CEO and Founder. He shares his thoughts below.


The Reality of Free Software

Who doesn’t like free? It sounds great. And, for certain things, it aligns well. But history tells us free rarely works well for software. 

For those who’ve been around awhile, remember when Google bought SketchUp and made it free? It killed the evolution of SketchUp in its tracks. Remember Autodesk’s acquisition of Lightscape? Remember Stingray? Remember when Autodesk teamed up with Epic Games to provide a free version of TwinMotion? What about the Unity partnership? NVIDIA partnership? Have you heard much about The Wild recently? They all got lost in the Autodesk shuffle. Is UNIFI destined to the same fate?


"Free doesn't listen to customer feedback."

I recently had a troubling encounter with free outside of the AEC industry. I’ve been using Mint for more than a decade to track personal finances. It was great for what I needed. And, better yet, it was free

Late last year, however, the owners of the Mint app, Intuit, announced they would be shutting it down. Good news, they said, I could switch over to another of their services, Credit Karma, and not miss a beat. Yeah, right. Credit Karma didn’t offer anywhere near the same usefulness I had experienced with Mint. So, now I’m off to a paid app called Monarch. So far, so good.

Free is the death of many software and technology initiatives. Free doesn’t listen to customer feedback. Free doesn’t invest. Why would it? Free rarely gets the job done … and free doesn’t like to be held accountable. In the end, free doesn’t really care if you use it or not. Free looks and sounds good, but wears a thin veil.

What we ultimately look for is value. We’ve all had some great experiences using free products. Google Search comes to mind. My experience with Mint was great while it lasted. What both of those products have in common is we were experiencing one side of a two-sided business model. Somebody was paying, it just wasn’t you! One-sided free, however, is unbalanced, and the user is often the one that ends up with the short end of the stick.


The Value of AVAIL:
Attentive Customer Success Team + A Robust Roadmap

At AVAIL, we pride ourselves on forging lasting relationships with our customers. We’re “people” people! That’s why we’ve built a dedicated customer success team that not only responds to inevitable bugs that crop up but—maybe more importantly—helps customers get up and running using our software and gathers important feedback that helps drive product direction.


"Innovation needs to be fed."

As customers who have been with us for several years can attest, we introduce major new features and functionality regularly throughout the year. We maintain an active roadmap and share it frequently with customers.

AVAIL's 2024 product development roadmapAVAIL's 2024 product development roadmap

Speaking of, here are some exciting initiatives coming soon to AVAIL to make it easier to manage your firm’s content … and propel the AEC industry forward.

Making content management easier 
  • Revit Application Version Management capabilities are launching in AVAIL this spring.
  • Redline and mark up content with ease, directly in the AVAIL platform with the Palettes workflow feature our team is actively working on.
  • Keep related information "together" and easier to consume with our powerful new Related Content feature that we showcased at AU 2023 and will release soon.


AI and the AEC industry
  • An AVAIL suggestion engine is in the works. We're working on new ways to automatically tag and associate information that will be the underpinning of that engine.
  • AVAIL AI Chatbot is also in development. It promises to make it easy for customers to manage and implement AI chatbot services across their own information.


Innovation has to be fed. Customers of AVAIL are supporting a product that not only helps solve real-world problems today but also feeds a robust development roadmap that aligns our collective interest in progressing the AEC industry in new and exciting ways! We look forward to working with you. 


Still have questions? Connect with our team. 


About the author

RS headshot A software entrepreneur, Randall Stevens is passionate about creating solutions for the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. He graduated in 1991 with a Bachelor of Architecture and shortly after founded the Rich Photorealistic Content (RPC)-focused company ArchVision. Leveraging his industry expertise further in 2016, Stevens started content management system (CMS) AVAIL that now boasts Gensler, Perkins + Will, IMEG, LEO A DALY, and Populous as customers, among others.

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