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The Future Is in 3-D for Autodesk

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Shares of computer-aided design specialist Autodesk (Nasdaq: ADSK  ) are up about 10% today after a fantastic fourth-quarter report. Sales of $456 million were a 7% drop year over year, but 4% above the top end of management guidance. Pro forma earnings came in at $0.30 per share, a penny below the year-ago figure and way ahead of guidance that topped out at $0.20 per share.

CEO Carl Bass said that every product line contributed to this outperformance in every geographic region. "Continued competitive displacements" were another business driver, which is a polite way of saying that Autodesk stole market share from competitors like Adobe Systems (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) , Parametric Technology (Nasdaq: PMTC  ) , Dassault Systemes, and ANSYS (Nasdaq: ANSS  ) .

James Cameron's blockbuster Avatar was created with significant help from Autodesk software, and Bass is excited about the opportunities the movie's record-breaking performance is opening up: "What we see is there's a lot more 3-D films coming, there is a lot of investment in 3-D TV as well as the more traditional gaming segment, and the mobile games continue to grow through the downturn." All of this is great news for a company that participates in the creation of computerized graphics and special effects, like Autodesk does.

And the company is extending some old product lines to new uses by marketing the Autodesk Vault data management program for new uses. Once sharply focused on keeping records of manufacturing designs, Vault is now a full-blown data management product that can help companies manage any kind of data from Word documents to intricate 3-D designs with version tracking and more. Vault is expanding its scope beyond its manufacturing niche into the broader market for data management and revision control systems that features major players like IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) and Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) .

So Autodesk ain't jumping for no reason today. 2009 was a tough year, but the company is roaring back to full health, expanding into new markets, and riding the 3-D trend like Duke Kahanamoku shooting down the Banzai Pipeline. What's not to love about this four-star CAPS stock? If you can come up with anything, feel free to spill the beans in the comment box below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here, but maybe he should. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Adobe Systems and Dassault Systemes are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. The Fool owns shares of and has written covered calls on Autodesk. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

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