@Billy sorry, which software are you talking about? Autodesk have are a whole bunch of their products, free to those that would otherwise not buy them or pirate them. That’s not necessarily desperation, it could also be ballsy common sense.
Their principal competion are dasault and UGS, both of whom have really only one core product. With an 85%market share in 2d CAD, autodesk need to ensure the eventual transition to 3d cad products allows them to maintain that share. If all the students of today have free access to inventor (combined with a thorough training program and knowledge base). That gives Autodesk a very real advantage over their competitors when those students become tomorrow’s industrial designers. If they further cement this advantage by releasing a holistic and professionally developed software/firmware stack that fills a (currently gaping) hole in the low cost market, they get a head start on integrating their design products into that stack in order to eventually be able to click ‘print’ from inventor or 3ds or Maya or mudbox, and just walk away a la 2d printers.
All off course my opinion, but not an uninformed one.