9 Jun 09 15:40
AutoCAD 2010 was released around the end of April 2009. At least that's when I received my subscription copy.
As far as I know, one can continue using a legally obtained copy of AutoCAD for as long as you want. The right to use it does not expire. What will expire is the ability to upgrade to a newer release (at a price less than full "new" seat price) once AutoDesk has dropped support on the older version.
But not upgrading will cost you in versatility. Yes, you can get someone to SaveAs a 2004 or 2000 version drawing file, BUT, if they have taken advantage of some of the newer features (Dynamic blocks, annotative properties, etc.) and then save down, you will find some very confusing stuff in that drawing file.
Several years ago I did a cost-benefit analysis of upgrading every 3-4 years vs Subscription and found that over a 10 year period the cost was about the same. Once you consider the relatively small annual adjustment needed for a new release against the major learning curve of say upgrading from 2006 to 2009, it's far better to go Subscription.
By the way, I do not work for AutoDesk nor am I involved in AutoCAD distribution in any way. Subscription or not, somehow the publisher has to generate the income to pay its people to continue to improve the product. Whether or not each annual incremental release is worth the cost depends upon how you use AutoCAD. From what I have seen of 2010 and its new features, and apply it to how I utilize AutoCAD, the annual cost is not worth it. But then, the 2010 to 2011 increment may be far better.
I don't necessarily like it, but it is the way it is.