JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 182 : 20 May 2005


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

Contents:
Click on any item to jump directly to that item

Haythornthwaite finally exits Invensys

Invensys announced widening losses for the year ended March 31, 2005, and CEO Rick Haythornthwaite finally threw in the towel. He'll exit on July 22, 2005 and won't be seeking re-election to the Board. He leaves the ailing company in the hands of Ulf Henriksson, the CEO-in-waiting who came from Eaton about a year ago.

About 4 years ago CEO Allen Yurko was booted out in disgrace after merging troubled Siebe and BTR and then bull headedly buying Baan and landing Invensys in a pile of sh.. - uh, debt. With no background (other than selling off a cement company) handsome Rick Haythornthwaite was hailed as the savior. But, beyond 2.6B of disposals (selling off profitable pieces) and a hugely expensive 2.7B refinancing, he simply dragged the once mighty Invensys into further decline. He was clearly out of his depth in the fragmented industrial automation business.

The Invensys weblog has an insightful review of Haythornthwaite by an Invensys senior manager. Here are extracts - read the complete review (link below):

    "So why is Invensys in this sad state? Quite frankly its all down to Rick Haythornthwaite. There is no doubt he is a very smart guy - articulate, statesmanlike, and he does step up to lead. Unfortunately he is all over the place. In essence my observations of Rick are that he is a very accomplished actor. Every meeting, video or presentation is a performance that Rick gives. He is not at all interested in the operations. In fact that's unfair - he actually cannot get to grips with the operations and so he delegates this responsibility, but then he cannot provide a stable context within which the businesses can move forward. So he moves from act to act, scene to scene - but with no script."
Rick Haythornthwaite presided over the decline of a once mighty multi-billion business as it was kicked off the FTSE-100 big-cap list with barely a whimper. His exit came with the usual sweet-nothings that accompany such ignominious departures. You may wish to read the complete text of his letter to Invensys employees, if you have the stomach for it. (It's published on the JimPinto.com Invensys weblog, link below).

Invensys shares initially appeared to rise on the news, but fell to 12.25p on Thursday, and closed at 11.75p for the week. Market-cap is a sorry 668M.

"Hands-on Henriksson" hopefully has a better chance of turning things around. Other than being called "Ulf the Hatchet" by fearful and tearful employees as he prunes and tunes, he seems to have been working diligently to put the business back on track. We wish him well. And we hope the good employees of Invensys have better luck than they've been having of late.

Most automation companies are doing much better these days, and it remains to be seen whether or not Ulf will improve results to stay independent. More likely, any up tick will simply fetch a better price from the buyers who are now sitting on the sidelines. Siemens, Emerson, Schneider, GE - there are very few farmers large enough to handle a pig of this size.

Click UK Telegraph - Invensys loss widens as chief leaves

Click Read the Yurko debacle, the chronicle of "The Invensys Decline":

Click Read Haythornthwaite's exit letter, and an Invensys senior manager's review of him on the Invensys weblog

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Jim Pinto keynote address at SPS EAA Exhibition Chicago

Next Tuesday, May 24, 2005, I'll be giving the Keynote Address at SPS Electric Automation America 2005, in Chicago, IL. Please come.

My speech, "Automation Unplugged Global Markets in the New Century" will cover technology futures in electric controls, marketing and global business.

The SPS EAA Exhibition and Conference is the first of a new exhibition series being organized by Messe Frankfurt Inc., Atlanta, and Mesago Messe Frankfurt GmbH. The Germans have experience with the huge European exhibitions of past decades, such as Hannover and Interkama. But, attendance at exhibitions has been declining, and they are now looking for new growth in the US and other worldwide venues.

For the first time in the USA, SPS Electric Automation America is offering a specialized event - as opposed to ISA, Manufacturing Week and others that are broadening their scope because of declining attendance. This Exhibition and Symposium is focused on electric automation technologies and will show specific industry applications, from complete system to integrated automation solutions.

Approximately 2,500 attendees are expected come from across the US, Canada and around the world. They'll represent electric automation, factory automation, electrical engineering, electrical drives and controls, mechanical engineering, electronics, plant engineering, electric measurement & controls, computers and network, automotive engineering, chemical industry and academia.

If you're attending, please come early to attend my speech - Tuesday 24 May, 8:30 - 9:30 am.

Click Visit the SPS Electric Automation America website

Click Automation World announcement of SPS EAA event

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The philosophy of Bullshit

These days, I'm getting more and more irritated with the constant barrage of advertising on TV. Everyone knows that the people on the screen are actors, mouthing lines that they have practiced. They've been carefully selected to look the part, but pretend to be real; indeed you'll see the same actors playing totally different parts for totally different ads. And we, the TV audiences, are the target.

It's lies. Everyone knows it's lies. Everyone knows that these are not real users of the products. Everybody knows that the lines are rehearsed and empty lies. But, it's expected. And we put up with it. Why?

OK, OK, I agree that companies need to advertise their products, and I have no solution to propose. But, where else can you find such utter BS being perpetrated on the public - regularly, everyday, every night, all the time. It's supposed to appeal to the broadest possible audience, and they test market their lies to find out which ones are noticed by the most people. They keep looking for the broadest audience, stimulating the lowest common denominator. The people who don't like it can switch off and walk away. Which is what I often do.

Recently, a new kind of advertising is popular - gross exaggeration that's supposed to be funny. Everyone knows it's bullshit. Hey, if that word offends you, I'm sorry. But then I suppose you're probably being offended regularly because this is common American slang. You may prefer other slang like: humbug, claptrap, poppycock, balderdash (that's upper-crust English), hooey, hogwash - depending on where you're from. I like BS. For me, it expresses a lot. Interestingly, the word "bullshit" is both noun and verb, which distinguishes it from many other similar words.

Well, along comes Harry G. Frankfurt, a retired professor of philosophy from Princeton, the "Ivy League" University. I saw him on CBS "60 Minutes" the other day, and previously on the Comedy channel. His theme struck a chord with my pet peeves. And then I heard that his little book (which costs about $ 6.00 on Amazon.com) has sold more than 150,000 copies. Hey, that's more than my own ISA best-seller, "Automation Unplugged".

It turns out that Prof. Harry Frankfurt wrote an essay "On Bullshit" some 20 years ago, and then included it in a book he wrote a couple of years after that, "The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays". And then, earlier this year, he republished it again as this small book which has had amazing success. Perhaps the timing was right.

To get to the point, Harry Frankfurt thinks that bullshit is defined, not so much by the end product, as by the process by which it is created. He writes, "One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted."

Bullshitting is not exactly lying, and bullshit remains bullshit whether it's true or false. The difference lies in the bullshitter's complete disregard for whether what he's saying corresponds to facts in the real world. The bullshitter does not reject the truth and oppose it, as the liar does. Instead, he pays no attention to the truth at all. Because of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies.

This compact little book attempts to provide a theory of this disease - what it is, what it does, and why there's so much of it today. The result is entertaining and enlightening. You might like to pick one up at your local bookstore, or get Amazon.com to ship it to you.

Click Get Prof. Harry Frankfurt's book "On Bullshit" on Amazon.com

Click Interview with Harry Frankfurt - Princeton University Press

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Cellevision is coming

A lot of big companies are betting billions of bucks that people will want to use their cell phones for TV, music, gaming, gambling, navigation and (some think) even tiny-screen porn.

The cell phone is the most personal and omnipresent gadget that has ever been used in everyday life. It's always on, and always with you. There are 1.5 billion in use worldwide; last year 690 million were sold, 6 times the number of computers (PCs and laptops combined). Suddenly this high-tech gadget is morphing into something even bigger - the most exciting new tech development since the Internet.

Americans bought $4 billion in wireless data services last year, though most of that (85%) was for simple text messages - only about 30% did that. 60% came from easy ring tones downloads - grabbing Chewbacca's purr, or Aahnold's "Welcome to Kah-lee-forn-ia" for a couple of bucks apiece.

Soon, wireless carriers will be able to send more data faster, to rival DSL and cable speeds. Manufacturers are churning out phones with bigger screens, 3-D graphics chips and awesome digital sound and video. Giant companies and startup entrepreneurs are rushing to develop songs, graphics, games and videos for these millions of tiny screens.

The mobile phone is the most exciting software platform in history. It's connected to the Internet, it's truly global, and it is an essential part of everyone's lifestyle. Cell phone games have low development costs and require no inventory and no shipping.

You can already do a lot of things on your cell, though most people don't do much beyond talking yet - perhaps games now and then, and some digital pictures. But soon, even the most anti-tech will be tempted. MapQuest will provide maps and driving directions, and others will show what the traffic is along your route. Match.com will match people and their needs; there'll probably even be a cell phone version of eBay. You can look up movie-reviews, and restaurants. Why have an iPod, when you can listen to music on your cell-phone?

The hottest new thing is TV VCasts, with lots of channels providing 60-second mobile episodes, or "mobisodes". Some 300,000 people can now get 24 channels of MobiTV from Cingular and Sprint. You can watch CNBC or Fox Sports - the picture is jumpy, but it'll get a lot better. But, of course, all this comes at a price - most services will carry monthly charges - affordable and incremental, say $ 2-3 or the unbeatable $ 9.99 a month. Cellevision is coming!

Click This was summarized from a Forbes.com article by Erika Brown: Coming Soon to a Tiny Screen Near You

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More Google tips, tricks & trips

I've had a LOT of feedback from delighted people about Google's new maps and satellite photos of anywhere in the US. Have you looked at a satellite photo of your home? Try it! You'll be pleased.

There are lots of websites dedicated to "Google Sightseeing". You can entertain yourself with all kinds of fascinating satellite views. Choose any US State you wish to visit, or select types of structures (bridges) or buildings, landmarks, crowds or large objects (boats, trains, etc.) The views are surprising.

Hey, here's another useful Google tool. Enter any number - UPS, Fedex or Post Office tracking number, area-code number, Vehicle ID number, UPC codes, patent number, etc. and you'll get quick results. There are a couple of tricks - see the web link below. But, you don't need to learn anything. Simply type your next Fedex or UPS tracking number into Google, and see what happens.

Click Google - search by Numbers

Click The Google Sightseeing website

Click Newsweek - Google Sightseeing

Click If you haven't yet tried it - Google Maps (and Satellite Photos):

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eFeedback

David Levine [david.levine@honeywell.com] suggests that it's inevitable that upstream jobs will follow manufacturing:
    "Knowledge based jobs will follow manufacturing. It just takes a little longer. The next thing is the overseas company starts selling its own product, and the US company is out of business, owned by the overseas company, selling small parts. Remember RCA? Zenith? GM?

    "Already many programming jobs are going to India, and eventually they'll develop their own software. Very few integrated circuits are made in the US, and this has been true since the early days of ICs. The design of a product will eventually be outsourced with the production."

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John Caccese [marcom-pr@cox.net] who worked for GE Power Systems in the past, comments on the yin and yang - Wal-Mart and Google:
    "There's one important strength you neglected to mention: excellence in customer service. Wal-Mart has long been known for its friendliness and service, but less publicized is how well Google treats its customers. I'm a fan of them precisely for this reason. Good service keeps customers happy and coming back for more, in good times and bad. Both companies, Wal-Mart and Google, are doing a really fine job.

    "Interestingly enough, GE took a page out of the Wal-Mart playbook in the mid-90s, copying Wal Mart's techniques in quick market intelligence. Each Wal-Mart store manager participated (and I think they still do) in a satellite TV broadcast each Thursday where intelligence gathered during the week is shared. Quick decisions are made; and since Wal-Mart was (and is) a nimble operator, they could implement new tactics quickly. To the extent it was possible, GE Power Systems, and other GE businesses as well, invested in quick market intelligence techniques to quicken the decision-making pace of the business."

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Paul Botting [paul.botting@modicon.com] on the multi-tasking disease:
    "I just read your newsletter and the article on cell phone, e-mail usage interested me. I must be one of the few people who does not posses a cell phone, nor do I want one. I want to be accessible when I want to be accessible, i.e., sitting at my desk, or hiding behind my answer phone at home. I do not want to receive phone calls in the bathroom, or when I am driving my car or browsing through the tool department at Sears or Home Depot.

    "I bought my wife a cell phone 4 or 5 years ago but we got rid of it because it was used so infrequently. She recently purchased a Track Phone (No monthly fee, just pay for what you use) mainly in case of emergency (breakdown, accident etc.) when she has the children with her in the car.

    "I wonder what percentage of people do NOT own a cell phone. I would be interested to see a survey which shows "cell phonelessness" in the USA."

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