JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 123 : 24 June 2003

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

Click on any item to jump directly to that item

JimPinto.com format comments

Many, many people like the new web-format - the colors and the hotlinked contents which allows jumping back and forth between the items.

But some (several hundred people) preferred the simple-text version because the could not immediately browse on the web for a variety of reasons - some read on a PDA, some receive it on their laptops and read when they travel. Honeywell people complained that the company blocks their web-access, and so they can only read JimPinto.com eNews via email.

So, with this issue of eNews, we'll satisfy BOTH types of subscribers! If you prefer web-access, you are already here! Or, if you prefer the text version, you can continue to receive it by email.

The only problem that remains is that this complete-text email is longer than just a summary (which some people prefer). And a longer email is more likely to be rejected by spam filters. Whatodo...?

GE-Industrial acquisitions - strategic mis-direction

Almost 3 years ago, when CEO Jack Welch was still around, GE made a bid to buy Honeywell. Most analysts felt that GE wanted Honeywell because of its avionics, aerospace and plastics businesses. Many (including me) thought there was no real interest in Honeywell IS (Industry Solutions) which GE would probably divest to someone like Siemens or Schneider.

But then the GE/Honeywell deal was thwarted by the European Commission, and Jack Welch retired, leaving GE In the hands of CEO Jeffrey Immelt. Following Welch's departure, it seems that GE has become more interested in industrial acquisitions, as part of its growth strategy.

GE routinely makes 100 or more acquisitions a year, mostly by GE Capital which recently acquired Heller Financial for $5.3b. But this is still far smaller than the $43b GE wanted to spend on Honeywell.

It seems that someone has come up with the strategy that GE can generate industrial business leadership (Jack Welch's famous directive - be No. 1 or No. 2 in a business) more effectively through steadily acquiring a bunch of smaller pieces, rather than a larger lump like Honeywell.

This past week's acquisition of relatively tiny Mountain Systems by GE-Fanuc signals the latest in a series of small (for $130b GE) acquisitions. The list includes:

    VMIC (Aug. 2001); Praxis (Oct. 2001); General Eastern Instruments, Kaye Instruments and Thermometrics from UK-based Spirent UK - formerly Bowthorpe (Nov. 2001); Interlogix (Dec. 2001); BentleyNevada (Jan. 2002); EuroDiesel (June 2002); Druck (July 2002); Novasensor (Aug. 2002), Panametrics (Aug. 2002); Ion Track (Oct. 2002); Intellution (Oct. 2002); Info Graphics Systems (Nov. 2002); Osmonics (Dec. 2002); RAMiX (Mar. 2003); SI Pressure Instruments (June 2003); Monitoring Automation Systems (June 2003); Mountain Systems (June 2003).
All these companies have been acquired since mid-2001 (a few months after the Honeywell deal was squashed). None of them are much beyond $100m in annual revenue, most much smaller. The latest, Mountain Systems is only about $10m - though it fits well with Intellution, which GE-Fanuc acquired recently from Emerson (Mountain developed the Historian module for Intellution's Fix).

Pinto Prognostications:
This is the third or fourth time GE has attempted an entry into the industrial business sector - and they made serious mistakes (and losses) each time.

After Jack Welch left, whoever is responsible for strategy is making a bad mistake. They do not seem to recognize that "industrial" is not just one market, but a vast, fragmented conglomeration of vertical segments, each with special needs and demands.

In each of the acquisitions mentioned, GE entered the bidding as the 500-pound gorilla and clearly overpaid - in some cases almost twice the nearest bidder. GE expects to generate leadership through good management and revenue consolidation. Instead, they damage the market and cause problems for customers, employees and competitors.

Jack Welch understood this problem well. Right now, he is probably having a fit....

Click GE Fact sheet - Acquisition Profiles

Click Former Panametrics owners sue GE after acquisition

Click Honeywell for sale - GE buys (Oct. 2000)

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Pervasive wireless sensor networks

Smart, networked sensors will soon be all around us, collectively processing vast amounts of previously unrecorded data to help run factories, optimize farming, monitor the weather and even watch for earthquakes.

Sensors are already everywhere. But most sensors used today are dumb - they lack the intelligence to analyze or act on their measurements, simply reporting for remote processing.

New developments are bringing wireless sensors that talk with each other, forming intelligent networks spread over wide areas. Together, the sensors network process information into an overall analysis. Indeed, wireless sensor networks are one of the first real-world examples of "pervasive" computing - small, smart, cheap sensing and computing devices that will permeate the environment.

Many people (including me) think that this technology can become as important as the Internet. Just as the Internet allows access to digital information anywhere, sensor networks will provide remote interaction with the physical world. Accurate weather prediction will be revolutionized through widespread wireless sensors. Within the next few years, distributed sensing and computing will be everywhere - homes, offices, factories, automobiles, shopping centers, super-markets, farms, forests, rivers and lakes.

Click MIT Tech Review - Casting the Wireless Sensor Net

Click Sensor Networks Reading List

Click Pervasive Computing Reading List

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Spam wars escalate - can email be saved?

When I send out 6,500 emails to the JimPinto.com eNews list, I get some rejections (maybe 20 or 30): "Blocked by spam filter" with a list of "suspect" words, mostly harmless, some amusing, and it's even curious that they could be "suspect".

I'm not sure how to contact the "blocked" people on my list. In some cases, my follow-up message has gone through, and they have responded that the "blame" rests on their IT people, with a request to forward the email to a private email address. Of course, for these people, access via the webpage would be the best alternative.

More than 13 billion unwanted e-mail messages swamp the Internet every day, worldwide. This time-wasting junk is a $10b annual drag on worker productivity in the US alone. In a perverse analogy to Moore's Law, the number of spam messages is doubling roughly every 18 months. It has risen from 8% of all e-mail in 2000 to more than 40% by the end of 2002, and is now more than 50%. Conceivably, spam could soon represent 90 percent of all e-mail soon.

Here are examples of just 2 spammers : One operates 20 computers in an abandoned schoolhouse, has a dozen shell companies, rents equipment and Web hosting services using aliases and then hacks into e-mail accounts. Another spammer has had fraud convictions, and has been through personal bankruptcy, with a jail stint; he rents mailing lists and has set up servers in his basement. Pitching mortgages, vacations, and online pharmacies and casinos on behalf of others, he makes thousands of dollars per week in sales commissions. His basement operation spews tens of thousands of messages per hour, relayed through servers in Dallas, TX., Canada, China, Russia, and India.

The proliferation of junk e-mail is threatening to overwhelm the Internet. Software companies are rushing to build defenses. But some of the new technologies do more harm than good, blocking good, desired emails along with spam.

In order to attack spam, we need to be clear about the things that make spam unacceptable. Just because spam is accompanied by some obvious traits does not make those relevant to controlling the problem. We could make every e-mail host identify itself, and we would still have spam. We could require that message content be signed, and we would still have masses of spam. Many of these "cures" will not stop spam, but they will reduce or eliminate e-mail's usefulness. Whatodo...?

Click MIT Tech Review - Spam Wars

Click Can E-Mail Be Saved?

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Scott Adams' Dilbert wisdom

Are YOU among the 695,000 members of DNRC (Dogbert's New Ruling Class)? If you read the free Dilbert Newsletter, you are. Scott Adams (the originator of this popular cartoon strip) thinks that you're probably more "attractive, generous and intelligent" than others who don't.

You've seen the Dilbert comic-strip - apart from being published in almost every US newspaper, Omega Engineering (the world leader in catalog sales of industrial sensors and instrumentation) uses it very effectively in their advertising.

Dilbert is an engineer (of course) and is the brunt of a lot of "Induhvidual" confusion along with his "Cow-orkers". Here are some samples of Dilbert wisdom in these true (sent in by DNRC) quotes from Induhvidual bosses and Cow-orkers, extracted from Dilbert Newsletter 48.0, June 2003 :

Quotes From Induhviduals:

    "Deep down, she's shallow."
    "He's as slow as malaria."
    "He exhumes confidence."
    "I describe false symptoms to my doctor to keep him on his toes."
    "Is everyone else in the world a moron, or is it just me?"
    "I slept like a banshee."
    "They're throwing us a blind herring."
    "That's putting the chicken before the cart.
    "We're going to be doing some manual automation."
    "I'd like to be a fish on the wall at that meeting."
    "I've been thinking about giving that some thought."
    "You have to shoot where the fish are barking."
    "It goes in one ear and down his back like a duck's water!"
    "You've buttered your bread, now lay in it."
    "He's not the brightest cookie in the lamp."
    "I'm sure he was drunk, he was driving erotically."
Induhvidual Tales:
    Junk mail item: "You too can have Perfect Skin - Free Sample."
    Complaint in the office: "The hole-punch is out of staples."
    "Dear Principal, it is infair and unpossible that I failed english."

Click Request a subscription to the Dilbert Newsletter

You can email Scott Adams at: Click scottadams@aol.com

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Movie "The Hulk" linked to Nanotech

The movie "The Hulk", just released this week, features some of the work of nuclear physicists at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs in California. Set in San Francisco, the movie is about fictional Berkeley physicist Bruce Banner, a mild-mannered boffin who gets bigger, greener and a whole lot meaner after being exposed to gamma rays from the lab's Gamma Sphere experiment. Carnage follows as he stomps through the American west tossing cars, tanks and helicopters.

The plot is fiction, from the comic book that became a TV series some 25 years ago (my son Chris was about 4; he'd hide behind a couch, but wouldn't let us turn it off).

The Gamma Sphere in the movie is real, "the best gamma-ray detector in the world" according to the real-life head of Berkeley's low-energy nuclear physics program. It found its way into "The Hulk" after Hollywood producers saw the machine's website while hunting for some real-life science to update their story. A portion of the film was shot at Berkeley's Advanced Light Source, with very realistic reproduction of the Gamma Sphere.

While the film is not exactly an educational experience, the official site does link to informative Nanotechnology web sites. Like Michael Crichton's PREY, fiction is showing that Nanotech is indeed on the horizon.

Click Kurzweil - The Hulk vs. Nanobots

Click Real experiment stars in Hulk movie

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Bob Fritz [rfritz@avtron.com] thinks that the export of manufacturing jobs is not necessarily bad:
    "I have to disagree with the commonly-held "ain't it awful" view that all our manufacturing jobs are being exported, simply because it's not true.

    "In 1960, Production of Goods represented 47% of the US economy, and 47% in 2003 (Source: US Department of Commerce). So what has happened? Very simply, we have increased our productivity. It takes fewer people to produce the same 47% of the GDP.

    "This is not bad. It's good. At the time of the Civil War, 50% of us had to be farmers, and now 2% can feed us all. That was good. The same thing has happened in Manufacturing. Our standard of living is simply increasing as the result of productivity, much of which is caused by automation.

    "Bewailing our loss of jobs in manufacturing (or farming) is no more productive than the Luddites throwing shoes into the weaving machines in 18th Century England."

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Dave Rapley [davidrapley@qwest.net] was reviewing the reasons for the Iraqi war, and came up with ideas to solve our fuel problems:
    "You don't suppose the Iraqi war could have been just for oil, do you? I don't mean only Iraqi oil; no, I'm thinking on a lot larger scale. Consider 5 or 10 years from now in a world where the US had not stopped Saddam. He now has all the weapons we said he was developing. He's used these against his neighbors (Saudi Arabia etc.) and now controls 80% of the MidEast Oil. Where would that leave the West? How do we know he would do that? Well, I'm glad we don't have to find out. Maybe Bush and the boys are more far sighted than they've been given credit for?

    "Another thought just came to me. I wonder where we would be if Reagan had not cancelled Jimmy Carter's Synthetic fuels program? I remember it well. Oil from coal, oil from rocks, energy from the wind and sun etc. It was a very optimistic time. Too expensive you say? At least the money would have been spent here and by now would have reduced the dollars we send overseas for oil? Not to mention the dollars spent fighting wars. Would the terrorists be such a threat if they weren't so well funded? You don't think that some of the oil dollars we send overseas finds it's way into their fund-raising?

    "Now here's a radical idea. Why not really get our economy going by launching a drive to make us more energy independent by 2015? It could be another goal like Kennedy's "man on the moon" deadline. It will get a whole lot of Americans back to work and paying taxes etc. It might work better than the recent tax break and if we could become even 30 or 40% less dependent. Yeah I know I'm just daydreaming. But wouldn't it be worth trying?"

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Mandar Phadke from India [mandar_phadke@hotmail.com] wrote:
    "I remember the term, "creeping criminality" which you had used during the first wave of corporate scandals that had hit the headlines last year. Is there a similar phenomenon amongst corporate employees today, about loyalty to the company? How about "creeping disloyalty"?

    "If employees feel that being loyal to the company may not mean that the company is loyal to them, then "creeping disloyalty" begins. This may mean many things to many people; some examples may be not going all out to win that big order, not negotiating too hard with suppliers for prices, etc. In the end, the company loses.

    "It seems that "creeping disloyalty" can become a real problem. What's your opinion?"

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