Autodesk to Purchase Alias

Autodesk Inc., which is known primarily for its computer-aided design (CAD) programs for architects and engineers, but is more widely know by game developers for its 3ds Max and Character Studio software, today announced that it will be acquiring Alias -- makers of 3D graphics technology Maya and MotionBuilder -- in an all-cash transaction worth $182 million. Autodesk anticipates that the transaction will close within four to six months; the two companies will continue to operate independently until the deal is completed.

In terms of brand recognition, although the Alias brand is strong, Autodesk plans to make Alias products transition to the Autodesk brand over time.

The purchase of Alias marks the second-largest acquisition in Autodesk's history; the company paid $410 million for Discreet Logic in 1999. The Alias acquisition unfortunately will also result in an unspecified number of layoffs (Alias currently has about 600 employees). "There will be some layoffs because there are some synergies and there will be people doing the same thing," Autodesk Chief Executive Officer Carol Bartz told Reuters. Bartz said that Autodesk typically makes 4-6 acquisitions annually; Alias would be the fourth pickup in 2005.

Autodesk tightens grasp on game industry

By acquiring Alias, Autodesk will be able to enhance its offerings for the film, video and (most importantly for our readers) interactive entertainment industries. Alias has many customers in the video game sector, including Nintendo, Square Enix, Electronic Arts, Midway Games, Factor 5, Sega, Sony, and more.

"This acquisition brings to Autodesk a highly talented group of individuals, a wealth of technologies and a great set of products," said Carl Bass, COO of Autodesk. "Alias' technology spans several of our most important markets and augments the synergy between our design and media businesses. Our design customers are demanding more powerful visualisation, animation and publishing capabilities. Our media and entertainment customers are increasingly using the data created by our design applications for broadcast, film and games projects. By combining the technology and talents of our two companies, we will be better able to continue delivering solutions that address our customers' complex needs."

Alias also stands to benefit from the acquisition, as the money should go a long way towards improving existing technologies and products in addition to helping to create new ones. "This acquisition is designed to leverage the strengths of both companies," commented Doug Walker, president and CEO of Alias. "Alias' customers will benefit from nearly $300 million in R&D spending while having access to new and complementary products and technologies. Together, Autodesk and Alias will deliver products and services that give form to great ideas from the fantasy world of film to the factory floor."

3D Studio Max, Maya peacefully co-exist...for now

Game developers using Alias' Maya or other products need not worry about their software becoming obsolete or replaced by Autodesk's as a result of the acquisition. Autodesk said it will "continue to develop the Alias product lines in conjunction with Autodesk's complementary products and technologies." As stated in the FAQ, "After the transaction closes, Autodesk plans to continue to sell all of the products currently offered by both organizations."

It is conceivable that somewhere down the line, Alias and Autodesk could offer new software that offers the best of both Maya and 3ds Max. "By combining the two companies' products and services, we will create a suite of software and services that will let customers produce compelling products, movies, games and advertising more quickly, and with better data management capabilities, than ever before," said Autodesk.

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